California Field Hawks heads home for weekend


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Senior Kathleen McGraw recalls walking the halls during her freshman year at St. Francis High School (Atherton, Calif.) and seeing a small booth that read something along the lines of “field-hockey tryouts.”

She joked about not having many friends, so she jumped at the chance. Not soon after, she found herself really learning the game on Stanford’s varsity field-hockey field — the same field she’ll return to this weekend for a three-game slate.

McGraw has been excited about this trip for a while. She’ll be playing just 20 minutes away from her alma mater, and her family plans to make the visit to the Cardinal campus to watch the senior goalkeeper play.

“A lot of my family has never seen me play field hockey,” she said. “At least not in college.”

Field hockey isn’t very big on the West Coast, even if Stanford is ranked No. 16 in the latest National Field-Hockey Coaches Association rankings. There were only three colleges in the state that fielded the sport when McGraw left for Iowa in 2009. That number has since increased to four teams at the start of this season.

Iowa will get to play three of the four West Coast teams this weekend: Stanford, California-Davis, and Pacific. It’ll be a four-day trip and the Hawkeyes will play today, followed by matches on Sept. 9 and 10.

The trip west will also function as a homecoming party for McGraw and fellow Californian Dani Hemeon. A sophomore midfielder, Hemeon played prep field hockey at Gilroy High, around an hour from the Stanford campus.

The two Hawkeyes share more than their native state, though. Both McGraw and Hemeon played together before coming to Iowa, at a developmental camp on the Stanford field. They knew of each other but hardly made conversation.

McGraw soon left for Iowa City, and Hemeon wasn’t far behind. McGraw had heard of Hemeon, and she began to reach out to her younger teammate.

“It’s not very often that a California kid goes to college to play [field hockey],” McGraw said. “Let alone come to Iowa.”

Since teaming up in the Midwest, the two West Coast women have taken the pitch against some of the best athletes from the opposite side of the country. There’s a bigger talent base in such states as North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, causing the style of play to be different.

From a technical standpoint, it was a big surprise to the Gilroy native.

“Their passing is much more crisper than ours,” Hemeon said. “We can flow right in with them, but there’s a different skill level [between us].

McGraw and Hemeon both said their families will be in the stands all weekend long, cheering for the Black and Gold. It’ll be more than immediate family members, meaning that Iowa could have a fairly sizeable fan base for the games.

With three games, they’ll have plenty to watch. The Iowa coaching staff emphasized efficient scoring and other offensive tactics leading up to this coming weekend. They’ll get their first shot today against Stanford at 4:30 p.m. (CDT).

“Our production on offense is something we’ve been working on,” assistant coach Meghan Beamesderfer. “We just have to execute.”

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