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Editor’s note: This is 12th in a series counting down the Top 50 moments in Iowa Hawkeyes women’s athletics history in the 50 days leading up to the 50th anniversary of Title IX in June.
Iowa was relatively late in adding an intercollegiate women’s soccer team.
Wisconsin had one since 1981. Indiana? 1993. Penn State and Northwestern? 1994.
Iowa? Not until 1997.
“Most of the women's soccer programs in the Big Ten had been around for a while at that point,” said Stephanie Gabbert, Iowa’s first head coach. “We knew it was going to be a little bit of a building process.”
But that building process went faster than expected.
In Iowa’s third year of intercollegiate competition, Gabbert led the Hawkeyes to a 1999 Big Ten tournament berth and earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors.
“‘99 certainly exceeded our expectations of what we thought we could do,” Gabbert told The Gazette.
It was particularly impressive considering the Hawkeyes’ previous two seasons.
Iowa went 2-7 in Big Ten play in its inaugural 1997 season and then 1-7-1 in 1998. But in 1999, Iowa went 7-3.
Gabbert’s team usurped No. 12 Wisconsin with a 4-1 win in its Big Ten opener.
“That game really helped the team understand that they were good enough to compete in the Big Ten,” Gabbert said.
Two of the Hawkeyes’ three conference losses — including against No. 5 Penn State — went to overtime.
The regular-season success didn’t translate to postseason success. Iowa fell, 2-0, in the first round of the Big Ten tournament to Illinois — the same team Iowa shut out on the road less than two weeks earlier.
The 7-3 Big Ten finish remains the best in program history although current head coach Dave Dilanni’s 2019 squad neared it with a 7-3-1 conference record.
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