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Three-time field-hockey captain Spengler knows leadership

BY NICK SZAFRANSKI | OCTOBER 19, 2011 7:20 AM

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Senior Becca Spengler's ability to lead is "beyond her years."

At least that's how field-hockey head coach Tracey Griesbaum touted Spengler, the only three-time team captain in a four-year career in Iowa history. Spengler's playing statistics show consistency throughout her career, but her indescribable effect on the program sets her apart.

"I keep the team moving in a forward direction," the fourth-year midfielder said. "I make sure we get what we need done, on the field and off the field. I'm a liaison between the coaches and the team — like [if] the team needs something different from them or if they need something different from us, just being able to communicate that both ways."

Friendships don't exist on the playing field in her mind.

"On the field, it gets dropped. Off the field, relationships carry on," the Lititz, Pa., native said. "I'm a competitor; I always want to get the 'W' for Iowa. If I need to say something to a teammate to make her better, or if she needs something from me, it's taken in a constructive criticism matter and not in an attacking matter."

The lone senior on the Hawkeyes' squad, Spengler is also the only remaining player from the 2008 team that advanced to the NCAA Final Four. She said she looked up to the eight seniors on that 2008 team — one of those seniors was Caroline Blaum, Iowa's only other three-time captain. She redshirted her junior season because of an injury, so her career lasted five years; Spengler is set to graduate upon the completion of her fourth year.

Spengler had only one full season as a college athlete before she was elected team captain as a true sophomore. Players are nominated by other teammates for the position, and the squad's captains are chosen after a speech based on a player and coach vote, Spengler said.

"[Being picked captain as a sophomore] was just more of an adjustment," she said. "At first, it was a little bit overwhelming, but then you have to step back, and you realize you have to play field hockey and your team sees you as a leader, so just keep doing what you're doing. I slowly progressed sophomore year."

Spengler has appeared in 61 games for Iowa, starting 50 of them. She has compiled eight goals, four assists, and 20 points in her career, including 14 games in her current senior campaign. Her résumé also includes two-straight awards as Iowa's Field Hockey Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree.

But she won't necessarily be remembered for those numbers and awards, junior Geena Lesiak said. Instead, her lasting legacy will be that she stuck with the team when the Hawkeyes had a rough year last season — the historically proud program stumbled to a 3-14 record — and helped turn them into contenders again.

"[The lasting impression] will be helping lead the team that we were last year — which was not at all where we wanted to be — into the team that we are this year," Lesiak said. "She helped lead us into what we wanted to accomplish for this year."


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