Field hockey looks to fix holes


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The Iowa field hockey team may have a new look, but expectations remain the same.

Tracey Griesbaum enters the 2009 season with a 16-woman squad that includes eight freshmen and just three seniors — a significant drop-off in experience from last season’s team, which included eight seniors. Still, she isn’t letting expectations diminish simply because others may classify the team’s upcoming campaign as a “rebuilding” one.

“I can’t control what people think or what they say,” she said. “If people want to call it rebuilding, that’s fine — I don’t really care for that word. We’re going to be young, but three, four years ago, that’s what we were, too.”

Her team may be full of fresh faces, but Griesbaum’s freshman class arrives on campus with plenty of accolades — not the least of which are carried by first-year players Hailey Chadbourne and Geena Lesiak.

Chadbourne, a 5-2 forward, comes off a high-school career that earned her recognition as a National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association High School All-American in both 2007 and ’08. And like her coach, the Pittston, Maine, native isn’t buying into the “rebuilding” talk.

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“I think anything we’re lacking in experience, we’re making up for with hard work,” Chadbourne said. “We are aware that we have less experience, and because of that, we’re just encouraging each other to keep working that much harder.”

Lesiak, who arrives in Iowa City by way of Voorhees, N.J., was one of a few young players who received praise from her head coach at Wednesday’s media day. Griesbaum said Lesiak will probably find her way into the starting lineup as a midfielder — something that hasn’t been a common occurrence during her tenure — but Lesiak is ready to jump right in.

And while she may be a freshman, she is schooled enough to realize that Iowa’s opening weekend of play — the Big Ten/ACC Challenge — will not be an easy stage on which to début.

“I’m really excited to just get thrown into a big game,” she said. “You start off with Wake Forest and North Carolina, it’s not like you get into it slowly and gradually.”

Although this year’s coaches’ preseason poll won’t come out until Aug. 25, Griesbaum and her Hawkeyes know their first two opponents will both be ranked near the top.

“In my opinion, North Carolina and Wake Forest are both thinking Final Four this year,” the coach said. “We wouldn’t choose to start our season any other way. You have to find out what you’re made of.”

Iowa may not be favored against either North Carolina or Wake Forest — teams that were both ’08 NCAA Tournament participants, with Wake being last year’s national runner-up. It may be difficult for Griesbaum’s ’09 crew to duplicate her ’08 club’s Final Four run, but this year’s bunch will be ready.

“The seniors — you can’t tell them to have different goals,” she said. “They’ve been in the NCAA Tournament every year, they’ve won three Big Ten Tournaments, and your senior year, you’re supposed to say, ‘No, no. Hold back.’? You can’t do that. We haven’t completely defined our goals for the season yet as a group, but right now, we’re just focused on getting ready every day.”

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