CEDAR FALLS — Similar to other sports at Northern Iowa, the women’s soccer team is doing its best to stay prepared while experiencing the cancellation of its fall season.
“You had all the emotions. Then, you’re just trying to figure out, what do we do now?” Coach Bruce Erickson said. “There wasn’t really shock, it was just more belabored disappointment. You’ve got to control the controllables and deal with it.”
Erickson admits if there had to be a year where a fall season got canceled, this particular one isn’t so bad given the makeup of UNI’s roster.
“Thirteen of our 28 kids — so almost 50 percent — are new to the program. So, there was going to be a transition period bigger than I’ve ever had with any team in the 25-plus years I’ve been doing this,” Erickson said. “That’s the silver lining — assuming we get a spring season in — it gives us an evaluation period with these (players).”
The Panthers’ fourth-year coach put an emphasis on his players’ training as a team as much as possible since the cancellation. By nature of that he also made a point to communicate with every player to get a feel for their COVID-19 mitigation efforts away from campus.
“Our biggest accomplishment is that we wanted to make sure these guys were really buying in to what it was going to take for us to have a fall season, to have a spring season — the onus really fell on them,” Erickson said. “We’ve had just about everybody (training together) the whole time. That’s been important.”
As Erickson and his team await a spring season, the roster’s inexperience offers plenty to work on in the interim. So does a complete remake of the team’s defense.
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“When half your team is new there’s going to be significant changes anywhere and everywhere,” Erickson said. “For us, it was almost reshaping our entire defensive side of the ball. Both with personnel and how we want to play. It’s been good (with) good competition all around.”
Once the Panthers get back on the pitch, they’ll be without one of their five seniors. And while there’s been no official announcement on when the spring season will start and what it will look like, Erickson — a chairman on the women’s soccer return to play committee — is encouraged by the dialogue the coaches association has had while it waits on the Missouri Valley Conference.
“The MVC has been active, but they’ve allowed us to really have, I think, a big voice in what happens in the future,” Erickson said.