Iowa City, IA (U-WIRE) -- The roles will be reversed when the Iowa women's soccer team takes on Northern Iowa tonight.
Instead of their typical underdog status - a position that several Hawkeyes relish - the Hawks will be the favorite to leave Cedar Falls with the victory.
"No matter who the opponent is, we have to go out there and play our style of soccer," senior-captain Katelyn Quinn said. "Whether we're playing UNI or Penn State, we prepare the exact same. If we play like we can, we should win this game, though."
Iowa (1-5-4) is coming off of a successful weekend in which it played nationally ranked Wisconsin and Northwestern to 2-2 draws. The offense - at one point the weakest unit on the team - has begun to hit its stride, scoring six goals over the past four games.
"Our midfielders and forwards are starting to work much better together," sophomore midfielder Jamie Maltman said. "We're getting the ball into the corners, playing nice crosses, and the forwards are finishing for us."
Conversely, UNI (1-9-0) has lost its last eight games while being outscored 27-5. Panther goalkeeper Krista Thorley owns a ghastly 3.24 goals-against average combined with a .708 save percentage.
Nevertheless, tonight's match is an intrastate rivalry that should be filled with emotions, especially after Iowa's 3-1 triumph a year ago.
"We have to be careful not to underestimate UNI's ability to compete, because they're going to come out with a lot of pride," Iowa coach Carla Baker said. "For us, it's about making sure we battle from start to finish."
The switch from the Big Ten season to a Missouri Valley Conference foe will also be difficult for the Hawkeyes, who have become acclimated to the physicality of their conference.
"They play more of a direct style of play than what we normally might see in the Big Ten," Baker said. "But our motto all season has been to focus on ourselves, and so, the biggest thing is just for us to take care of what we do. It'll be a little different, but we should continue to play well."
After UNI, Iowa will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to play the Buckeyes on Oct. 2 at noon. The match will give the Hawkeyes a chance at redeeming last season's 4-1 home loss.
"[The Buckeyes are] going to be a great test for this team, because they're going to battle, and they're extremely athletic," Baker said. "They have a very talented midfield, and they're more physical than any team we've played to this point in the season."
The Buckeyes are coming off of back-to-back losses to Michigan and Michigan State to open the Big Ten season. However, Ohio State is a perennial powerhouse, capturing the 2004 Big Ten Tournament and reaching the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament last season.
"The two teams that we played last weekend [Wisconsin and Northwestern] definitely underestimated us, and they both left here unhappy with the result," Maltman said. "If we continue to play like we have been, a lot more Big Ten teams are going to feel like that."
(C) 2004 The Daily Iowan via U-WIRE