Field Hawks advance in B1G tourney


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Iowa’s field-hockey team began the second-half of Thursday’s game facing an uphill battle.

The deficit was only 1 goal, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. It took nearly 47 minutes before Iowa cracked the goose egg on the Grant Field scoreboard. Sophomore Dani Hemeon’s strike, which was assisted on a beautiful pass from senior Jessica Barnett, helped to equalize Iowa’s Big Ten Tournament opener against fifth-seeded Michigan State.

It was also the seventh time this fall the Hawkeyes have rallied to win.

“We made it hard on ourselves, again,” head coach Tracey Griesbaum said and chuckled. “But it feels good. That’s the name of the game. Do what you can to advance.”

Iowa’s 13-year head coach seemed happy about the win, but she has made it clear that she isn’t fond of comeback victories. Those wins coincide with close scores — another kind of game Griesbaum isn’t a fan of playing, even if her team does win them.

“We should be getting that out of our system by now,” she said. “But it was huge.”

In this case, Iowa’s knack for coming from behind came at a completely necessary time. A first-round loss in the Big Ten Tournament probably would have sent the Black and Gold back to their homes without a shot at qualifying for the NCAA Tournament.

The comeback victory also kept alive the Hawks’ dream of winning their fifth Big Ten Tournament championship.

“We have the opportunity to play in the semifinals, on our own field,” senior Geena Lesiak said. “We have to take advantage of it.”

The poise Iowa’s backline has shown during each rally this season is what should be commended the most. They’ve faced numerous 1- and 2-goal deficits, causing many of the fans and coaches to worry.

But Iowa’s defense doesn’t fret when facing an uphill battle, no matter the opponent. Stellar play from the defense inspires the rest of the team, and confidence grows in a snowball effect — the more the Hawkeyes continue to stop the opposition and press forward, the more they believe they’re still in the game.

That confidence has built a mindset that’s unlike any other in the conference. Of the four teams still remaining in the hunt for the league tournament title, Iowa’s seven rallies tops Penn State’s, Indiana’s, and Michigan’s combined.

“We don’t start out a game planning to toy with our opponent,” Griesbaum said prior to Thursday’s game. “You have to be able to manage a game. But we have proven that we can come back from these deficits. It doesn’t really faze us.”

There was no fazing Iowa on Thursday, especially when the game entered overtime. It marked Iowa’s fourth overtime game this season — all of which the Hawks have won in comeback fashion.

Freshman Natalie Cafone made sure her team won its fourth after redirecting a quick strike from Barnett with just under five minutes remaining in the first extra period. The net rippled, completing the comeback and keeping Iowa’s season alive.

“It shows we’ll never count ourselves out,” senior Kelsey Mitchell said. “We’re always going to fight until the end.”

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