Iowa field hockey holds off Great Danes


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The overhead passes weren’t much of an issue for the 14th-ranked Hawkeyes.

Head coach Tracey Griesbaum planned for Albany’s aerial advances all week at practice, emphasizing stingy, patient defense. It proved to be the difference in Iowa’s 2-1 home victory over the No. 20 Great Danes on Sunday.

The win appeared to be in good hands for 67 minutes of the contest. Kelsey Mitchell opened the game with an early goal at the 3:26 mark. Corinne Allen took a pass to the south baseline before skipping it through the defense to a wide-open Mitchell, who proceeded to notch the score.

“We wanted to score early to take the wind out of their sails,” the junior said about her third goal of the season. “The plan was to score early and often. The ‘often’ didn’t come as much as we wanted it to, but we accomplished the early part.”

Mitchell nearly duplicated the scenario in the second half. She received a pass from Marike Stribos, and made a clean turn before initiating a shifty comeback maneuver to score her second goal of the day.

She delivered Iowa’s final goal at the 37-minute mark, pushing the lead to 2-0.

“It was important for us to get the goals early in the halves to give us a little bit of momentum,” Mitchell said.

The rest of the game — even between the goals — was an offensive struggle between the two ranked squads. Albany was able to penetrate the Iowa defense early on. The Great Danes found smaller holes in the midfield and snuck longer passes into the middle near Iowa’s circle.

The back and forth caused both teams to grow weary and frustrated, leading to fouls and penalty corners. But none of those fazed Iowa’s senior goalkeeper Kathleen McGraw, who made 8 saves.

“We had to battle,” Griesbaum said. “I thought we got off to a good start, but as time went on, [Albany] really started pressing.”

The press became very apparent in the final three minutes of regulation. Albany was able to cut Iowa’s lead in half on a penalty corner — the Great Danes garnered 11 penalty corners to Iowa’s five.

The number of penalty corners made the goal seem almost inevitable. Albany’s Daphne Voormolen lined up a clear strike after fellow Great Dane Laura Page caught the pass and set from Jessica Longstreth.

The goal sparked a bit of momentum in the visitors, both in the players and in the fans.

“They are really aggressive and have good players who could do some damage,” Griesbaum said. “The thing about field hockey is that you know it’s coming, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to defend. We had to handle a lot of pressure.”

Iowa maintained the score and held off Albany’s late-breaking attack. The leadership of Geena Lesiak helped keep Iowa’s backline calm.

“It’s a lot of anticipation,” Lesiak said of the defensive strategy. “It’s a lot of checking off your shoulder to see where your girl is but also trying to read the person with the ball … That helps to anticipate the next move.”

Lesiak said the defense’s discipline and focus made the difference during the final moments, helping Iowa hold on for its fifth win of the season.

“We always talk about protecting Grant,” she said. “We just have to keep this momentum going.”

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