Freshman of small words poised to be next Iowa field hockey star


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Freshman Natalie Cafone likes to keep things short and simple.

She never says too much about her life off the pitch. Her words are limited and concise. She won’t say much about her favorite kind of music, or her favorite movie — which is Mean Girls.

“I like to watch funny movies,” she said.

But on a team chock-full of personalities, even Cafone hesitates to describe how she stands out from the crowd. When asked, she began with the usual, “Well, I …” and then paused.

“I’m not really different,” she said, almost casually. “I kind of just do what everyone else does.”

It’s seemingly hard to get a read on Cafone. She’s very straightforward and direct, getting to the point when she speaks, and nothing more. She often repeats herself, mentioning more about the team than her own accomplishments. It makes her personal life seem almost secretive.

Ask her about field hockey, though, and her eyes beam with excitement. She even cracks a smile. But the amount that she talks remains the same.

“I really like being a part of a team,” Cafone said.

This much is very evident. Following the Missouri State matchup on Sept. 1, she talked about how her stellar performance, which included 2 goals, wouldn’t have been possible without her team.
This humbleness, said her head coach, isn’t something to worry about.

“It’s because she’s good,” Tracey Griesbaum said. “She’s just really driven, and I think she wants to do well … She has a high standard for herself.”

The 13th-year head coach said Cafone’s work ethic and determination reminds her a lot of her more veteran players — specifically, she said, Jessica Barnett and Sarah Drake.

Griesbaum also noted that her freshman star fits the mold of the players she loves to recruit. She looks for players who are competitors, who don’t settle — she doesn’t look for players who “think they’ve already arrived.”

“She’s only played in three games in her college career,” Griesbaum said. “I would hope she doesn’t think she’s gotten the best that she can be.”

If history proves correct, Cafone is only getting started. She improved each season of her high-school career, topping it off with a state championship at West Essex (N.J.). She scored an astounding 135 goals during her four prep years — 50 of them coming during her senior campaign.

“It’s easy to detect,” Griesbaum said about Cafone’s skill and potential. “She’s super aggressive, super fast, no fear … We just had to get confirmation from [West Essex], asking ‘Is this legit? Does she bring this every day?’ And the answer was yes.”

Her high-school head coach, Jill Cosse, said it best following Cafone’s senior year. She told the Fairfield, N.J. local newspaper, the Star-Ledger on Dec. 18, 2011, that Cafone is “so athletic and competitive.”

“She just goes out there and plays crazy-good hockey,” the quote said.

Both her former and current head coach speak highly of Cafone. But it was her high-school assistant coach who made the push for her to become a Hawkeye.

Diane Demiro Simmons, a former All-American forward for Iowa, talked a lot about her alma mater around Cafone. She talked about how great it was, and how much she loved it, persuading the freshman that Iowa City was the place to be. So far, it seems Simmons was right.

“I really like it,” Cafone said. “I’m really happy with my decision.”

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