Hawkeye field hockey to debut in Iowa City


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The Iowa field-hockey team will be almost unrecognizable when the players enter Grant Field at 5 p.m. today. The No. 23 Hawkeyes (1-1) will make their 2011 home début against No. 25 Kent State (0-2).

In 2010, Iowa finished with a disappointing 3-14 record. But after an offseason of transformation, 12th-year head coach Tracey Griesbaum said the fans of the Black and Gold are in for a surprise.

“I think that, as a whole, we are playing every facet of the game at a higher level,” she said. “So I don’t think that it is one specific thing but just overall that — ‘wow’ — this is a completely different team. I think to the fans, if they watched us last year and they see us now, they will be really impressed with how far we have come in nine months. After taking some really hard hits, being a little vulnerable, being a little down, now we are determined and very athletic. We will be out there competing.”

Iowa opened the season up last weekend at the annual Big Ten/ACC challenge, going 1-1. The Hawkeyes upset No. 11 Wake Forest, 3-2, on Aug. 27 before falling to No. 2 North Carolina, 2-0.

“Our underlying goal is to progress from last weekend,” junior midfielder Geena Lesiak said. “There are a lot of really good things we did from last weekend from when we played Wake Forest and North Carolina, but there were also a lot of things that we didn’t do so well that we worked on in practice. If we put what we did in practice into the game this weekend, we will win and be happy with the way we progressed.”

Throughout the past week the Hawkeyes have concentrated on improving their midfield defense.

Scoring on the attack has also been a focus of Griesbaum and the squad.

“We want better transition from our defense to the attack,” Lesiak said. “We need to be able to join [the attack] so we can have more numbers above the ball.”

Despite the winless record of the Golden Flashes, Griesbaum said, the Hawks aren’t going to look past them. Kent State’s both losses came to two ranked teams — No. 22 Northwestern and No. 26 New Hampshire.

The Flashes knocked off the Hawkeyes last season, 3-1, in Kent, Ohio. However, Iowa has the upper hand in the all-time series, 3-1, including a 2-0 record at home.

“This is the time where it is really easy to get caught up in what [Kent State] did last weekend because it was opening weekend,” Griesbaum said. “I think every team has the mentality that it has a clean slate … I think everyone is saying it’s a new day and it’s a new game. I think we are going to get a phenomenal game from Kent State. It played us last year, and it beat us, so I think it has confidence. It has returners who can execute and take over a game at any time.”

Senior forward Debbie Bell returns as the nation’s fourth-leading scorer for Kent State. The matchup between Hawkeyes Jessica Barnett and Niki Schultheis and Bell will be the most compelling of the game.

“Playing under the lights in any sport for any team is awesome,” Hawkeye junior forward Sarah Drake said. “There is going to be a lot of attention on our team. Our parents, friends, and fans will be there, and there will be a lot of energy in the crowd.”

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