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Iowa field hockey already eager for postseason

BY CODY GOODWIN | AUGUST 20, 2012 6:30 AM

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It wasn’t a real game, but it didn’t matter.

Forget that it was only a scrimmage. Forget that it was only one full-timed half, followed by a shortened second-half.

And forget that the Hawkeyes were playing each other — the same teammates they’ve been practicing with and against for the last week and a half of preseason.

It didn’t matter to them. None of it did. The women were happy to be playing competitively again. It had been a long seven days of preseason, which led up to the Black and Gold scrimmage on Aug. 15.
The Gold team, mainly made up of the older, more experienced players, easily defeated the younger, underclassmen-filled Black team, 4-2, in a match that showed a lot of versatility from both sides. Head coach Tracey Griesbaum, who is entering her 13th year with the Hawkeyes, was pleased with the effort the women put into their first live match since last season. Iowa is coming off of a year that was cut short in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against eventual champion Maryland, 4-2.

That experience of getting back to the Big Dance, the Hawkeyes’ first trip since 2008, Griesbaum thinks, will drive the team this year. She said the players are hungry after only getting a taste of the big stage.

“Their energy is a little bit greater than last year,” she said. “They want to do better than last season.”

The job won’t be easy. The Hawkeyes return 15 letter-winners, including nine starters. The 2011 Hawkeyes had a 15-5 record (4-2 in the Big Ten, finishing second behind Michigan) and finished the season ranked No. 12 nationally.

The seniors, Griesbaum said, aren’t shying away from the challenge. The two captains, Jessica Barnett and Kathleen McGraw, are both final-year players. Barnett ranked second on the team with 11 goals last season and was an All-American and All-Big Ten selection. Goalkeeper McGraw led the conference in shutouts, tallying five goose eggs. She averaged 5.3 saves per game last season.
Both seniors will be four-year starters for Griesbaum, and they are expected to lead this team back to the NCAA Tournament. The head coach said she knows the seniors are ready for the challenge, and they want to leave a lasting mark on Iowa field hockey.

“We can’t take any team lightly,” Barnett said. “We really just need to focus on the little things that will take us to our goal.”

The goal Barnett spoke of hasn’t been determined yet. The women haven’t set their own personal expectations, but rather, they intend to set an easy pace for the season.

The schedule includes tough opponents. Iowa will face Wake Forest and North Carolina, which finished the regular season ranked No. 18 and No. 1, respectively — in addition to the tough Big Ten.
This year’s squad will be tested. But there’s a treat at season’s end: Iowa will host the Big Ten championship.

That also motivates the team. Ask the players, and they’ll say it’s an honor and that they’re “pumped,” but the seniors will take it a step further. Fourth-year player Kelsey Boyce, who played in goal during the Black and Gold scrimmage, said one of the team’s goals is to win the
conference tournament on their home field.

“It would be a great way to end our senior season for us,” she said. “I know everyone is looking forward to it.”


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