Iowa’s field hockey team watches others play for Big Ten title at Grant Field


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The Grant Field scoreboard read three minutes and counting when the Iowa field-hockey team finished filing into the stands. They wore street clothes and heavy coats. They didn’t play on championship Sunday.

The Hawkeyes were nestled into the lower lefthand side of the bleachers, and they prepared to watch the Big Ten field-hockey championship game between Penn State and Michigan.

The Hawkeyes watched as the Nittany Lions and Wolverines battled for the title. Their faces radiated an empty expression that was closely synonymous with sadness.

“It hurts a lot,” senior goalkeeper Kathleen McGraw said after the Nov. 2 semifinal loss to Penn State. “We came out here to win a Big Ten championship. And we didn’t get the result that we wanted.”

The result that did happen was devastating for the Black and Gold. The Hawkeyes, known well for rallying to win games — having four of those six comebacks this season happen at home — couldn’t rally when they needed to most.

The two teams Iowa couldn’t come back to defeat in 2012 were the two who took to Grant Field on championship Sunday. Both teams helped to eliminate Iowa from contention for this year’s league championships.

Michigan handed Iowa its first loss at home on Oct. 26, 2-1. The loss dashed Iowa’s hopes of a Big Ten regular-season title. The Nittany Lions then defeated Iowa for its second, and final, home loss of the season on Nov. 2 in a 3-2 nail-biter in the conference semifinals.

“I thought the heart we displayed was great,” head coach Tracey Griesbaum said. “But it stinks to host a tournament and not play in the finals. It hurts a lot.”

What might’ve been even more painful was what Iowa had to witness at the game’s end Sunday. It was not the match itself — small chatter and laughter was heard from the Black and Gold contingent throughout regulation. Instead, it was the celebration at the game’s end that seemed to bring out the most pain.

Penn State clinched the conference crown in a 2-0 victory. Each of the Nittany Lions jumped in jubilation — it was their second-straight Big Ten Tournament championship.

The white and royal blue bench cleared and stormed the field, and Iowa could only watch. They were silenced as they saw another team reveling on the field they call their own. They couldn’t turn away, making the sight that much harder to stomach.

On the field, the feeling was the polar opposite.

“I am just so thrilled for the girls,” Penn State’s head field-hockey coach Charlene Morett said in a release. “They showed great effort and poise … It was a tough game between two high-quality teams.”

At the celebration’s completion, the Michigan fans began to head out to their cars, heads hung in disappointment for their team’s loss after having come so far.

But through it all was a sign of satisfaction — contentment, even. The Wolverines had made it to the finals, causing their parents and fanatics alike to stay in Iowa City for the four days required of the finalists. In the end, that’s all that really mattered to them.

Many of the Big Blue fans walked past Iowa’s field-hockey team as they sat in their seats, watching the Penn State celebration unfold. One woman, sporting a Michigan hoodie underneath a wind-breaking jacket, nearly forcing a smile out on her face, stopped and looked at the row of seniors who lined the front of the group.

It might be the only thing anybody can say to this Iowa field-hockey team, whose NCAA tournament future remain on the bubble.

“Good luck to you guys,” she said.

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