Short season for field hockey


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For the first time since 2005, the Iowa field-hockey team won’t make a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The Hawkeyes’ 5-1 Big Ten Tournament semifinal loss to No. 8 Michigan State on Nov. 6 left them with a 9-10 overall record. The sub-.500 record makes them ineligible for an at-large bid.

Entering the season with a team whose 16 members included eight freshmen, Iowa head coach Tracey Griesbaum knew she faced a challenge.

She refused to call it a rebuilding year, though.

Following an opening weekend in which Iowa lost to then-No. 2 Wake Forest and then-No. 4 North Carolina, it looked as though Griesbaum may have been wrong.

Iowa’s first two opponents were just two of nine ranked teams the squad faced. Despite her team’s youth, the coach continued to believe in the same scheduling philosophy.

“I want to play the best teams possible,” she said after her team’s 5-0 loss to North Carolina on Aug. 30. “We bought into [playing the best teams]. We committed to it. It’s not changing.”

It didn’t. Following the first two losses, Iowa proceeded to lose three of its next four by a total margin of five goals. Then, the Hawkeyes exploded for a 12-0 home victory against St. Louis on Sept. 19.

After a 3-2 victory at Michigan to open its Big Ten slate, Iowa dropped its next three conference matches. Without reliable scoring, the Hawkeyes relied on a stingy defense to close out the regular season on a hot streak.

Iowa allowed just five goals in its last five games, winning four of them.

But a matchup with the buzzsaw Michigan State Spartans in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals was too much for the Hawkeyes. The loss ended the collegiate careers of seniors Tricia Dean, Meghan Beamesderfer, and Jess Werley.

“It’s been awesome,” Dean said following the team’s 2-0 Senior Day loss to Louisville. “Looking back on my whole experience, I’ve loved it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Despite the void the seniors will leave behind, this year’s youth movement proved Griesbaum shouldn’t have much to worry about. Of next year’s 13 returning players, eight were starters this season.

Freshman Sarah Drake, who scored eight goals, and freshman goalie Kathleen McGraw, who recorded her first career shutout against Penn State on Oct. 18, will both be back.

Griesbaum will look forward to the return and maturation of McGraw and her teammates.

“She’s just a very quiet leader,” Griesbaum said about the goalkeeper. “She’s just going to keep getting better along with all her seven classmates.”

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