Former Field Hawk continues Iowa goalie legacy


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The Iowa field hockey team lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Louisville on Oct. 7, but the Hawkeyes still found a small feat to be proud of.

Louisville’s second-to-last shot on goal came during the 55th-minute of Sunday’s contest. Hawkeye senior Kathleen McGraw knocked Cardinal forward Amber Thomas’s shot away for her 49th save of the season.

It was also the 295th save of her Black and Gold career, pushing her into fifth all-time in the Iowa record books. The small feat remained just that for McGraw, who didn’t even realize she reached the mark.

“To be in a program that has a strong history of goalkeepers is significant,” the senior said. “It’s not something I have been focusing on, but I’m glad to be a part of it.”

The significance of her achievement, McGraw says, is due in large part because of her coach. Had it not been for associate head coach Lisa Cellucci, McGraw wouldn’t have been a Hawkeye in the first place.

The summer before the Atherton, Calif., native made her commitment to be a Hawkeye, she spent a lot of time working with Cellucci, calling her the “best coach I’ve ever worked with.”

Cellucci has a knack for tailoring specific goalie drills and practice regimens to specific goalies. McGraw said Cellucci’s coaching style helps to target her weaknesses, and what they learn in practice helps to translate to the pitch come game time.

McGraw joins a company of elite Hawkeye goalkeepers, many of whom have also been coached by Cellucci. Lissa Munley, who played goalie before McGraw, ranks sixth on the list with 292 career saves. The goalie before her was Barb Weinberg, who ranks fourth with 371.

The significance in all of this is that Cellucci herself heads the list with 592 career saves in the Iowa net. She is, arguably, the best goalkeeper to ever compete for Iowa field hockey.

Cellucci took a year to coach at James Madison upon graduation before returning to her alma mater to coach along side Tracey Griesbaum, where she specialized in the defensive side of the team.

“Because of the lineage we’ve had here, we’ve been able to attract some really good goalkeepers,” Cellucci said. “The goalkeepers I’ve had the privilege to coach, we’ve had wonderful relationships, and have been able to progress each year, and just get the best out of them.”

Having a “goalkeeping specific coach,” as Cellucci puts it, is one of the reasons Iowa has been able to recruit talented goalkeepers over the last few years.

Cellucci, a native of Broomall, Pa., sees it as giving back to the program that gave her so much.

Following her Hawkeye career, she spent time as a member of the U.S. National Team for two years, gaining more experience from the toughest competition field hockey has to offer.

That’s what separates Cellucci from the many coaches she’s worked with over the years, Griesbaum said.

“You have to play [the position] to be a really, really good goalkeeping coach. It’s a speciality position,” Griesbaum said. “Lisa prepares herself to prepare her athletes. She’s very organized and has a plan for each one of her recruits to help maximize their potential.”

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