Iowa field-hockey team stays versatile


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There are times during an Iowa field-hockey game when the backline athletes won’t always play their position.

Occasionally, some of the defensive athletes will quickly trade spots with their midline teammates, helping to clear the ball out of their defensive circle and pushing the offense downfield in transition. Head coach Tracey Griesbaum said loves it when this happens.

Especially when she knows that the midline can take care of the defensive positions during the rapid shift. It speaks to the versatility of her team.

“That’s just one example of many,” Griesbaum said. “We have versatility in all kinds of ways.”

The quick transition causes some sporadic overlapping during the competition. The Hawks are aware of this and use it as a strength.

There are times when the full switch isn’t necessary, though. As seen during a Sept. 16 game at Grant Field, it might only take a small carry upfield before defender Jessica Barnett blasts a strike downfield to forward Corinne Allen.

Allen took the ball to the end-line and handled it near the left post before hitting a pass into the middle, setting up a nearly wide open shot for midfielder Kelsey Mitchell.

Barnett hit the pass from just before midfield. Mitchell came in for the clean shot. Allen made the assist.

Goal, Iowa. Transition, successful.

“Having a front and midfield line that can score helps us to not just rely on the forwards,” midfielder Dani Hemeon said. “Our forwards can also make assists, which helps us out.”

But it’s not just limited to offense. Griesbaum’s women have an uncanny ability to overlap on the defensive side, too. During the Sept. 16 matchup against Albany, the defensive overlapping tactic was put on display in the final five minutes of the game.

The midline and defense combined to form a layered backline, making it extremely difficult for the Great Danes to penetrate goalie Kathleen McGraw’s net. Just when an Albany forward maneuvered her way through the first of three possible Iowa defenders, she was faced with another set of stout blocks and confrontations.

Getting through a tough marking from Hawkeye midfielder Sarah Drake resulted in a matchup with Iowa defender Geena Lesiak, who easily approached the driving forward to halt any sort of attack.

The goalkeeper appreciated their efforts — the combination of her eight saves and the defensive strategy helped Iowa cling to a 2-1 victory.

“As a line, they all bring different skill sets to the game,” McGraw said. “Whether it’s with our overheads, and different ways of [clearing] the ball, and even different speeds and styles on defense, we kind of have it all in a line.”

Both Griesbaum and Hemeon agreed that communication is key with a team as versatile as the Hawkeyes. Without talking on the field, there would be no clean transition, which could spell trouble for Iowa against any top-ranked opponent.

Clean transitions and multifaceted looks will be crucial for Iowa today as they take on No. 15 Michigan State in East Lansing. It signals the beginning of conference play, and the Field Hawks are looking to make noise from the opening whistle.

“We need to make a statement defensively, but also offensively,” McGraw said. “We want to put out a solid performance, and be really ruthless.”

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