Iowa’s field-hockey team makes the NCAA field for second-straight year


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Iowa’s field-hockey team is going to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

“It’s our standard that we want to achieve every year,” head coach Tracey Griesbaum said. “To hit this marker, again, is really special.”

Iowa (14-6) will face Virginia (15-5), which will also play host to the region in which the Hawkeyes were placed, in the first round of the tournament. The other match of the bracket includes Drexel (15-6) vs. No. 2 Princeton (17-1).

The Cavaliers will provide a stifling challenge in the first round. They finished runner-up in the ACC regular season, defeating top teams Maryland and Wake Forest. Maryland then bounced Virginia from the ACC Tournament, 5-1.

Virginia also returned two top athletes to its roster who redshirted a year ago. Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese, both seniors, took the 2011 season off to compete with the U.S. National Team. Their stint included time in London for this past summer’s Olympic Games.

This is a draw that captain Jessica Barnett is excited about. She knows her team will have to focus solely on Virginia first, but she said Iowa’s placement in the bracket is very favorable.

“I’m pretty happy with this bracket,” the senior said. “They’re very beatable. We can’t look too far ahead, but I think this is a great bracket to be in.”

This is the 22nd time in program history that the Hawkeyes made the NCAA field of 16 — a stat that leads the Big Ten. This is also the second-consecutive year that Iowa made the tournament, and the way this year’s Hawkeyes found their position in the field was eerily similar to a year ago.

Iowa landed a spot in the fourth and final region of the bracket this season, meaning they were also the second-to-last pairing to be announced during the NCAA Selection Show. Twelve teams were announced before them, causing a sense of worry and panic to fill the room the team sat in to watch the show.

“That’s always hard,” Griesbaum said. “You wouldn’t want to be first, because then you lose focus … I felt bad for them. They were getting really, really nervous. And when Lafayette showed up on the board, I think they got even more nervous.”

Griesbaum wasn’t nearly so nervous as her team before the field was announced. She knew their ranking and certain wins throughout the season helped to solidify Iowa’s RPI, which was 11th in the country. The head coach was more worried about where her team would land when the field was announced.

The team, though, jumped and cheered when they finally saw “Iowa” on the bracket. They said the anticipation was torture, but the wait was worth it.

“We’re on a mission now,” senior goalkeeper Kathleen McGraw said. “Luckily, things worked out well for us.”

Their attention turns to Charlottesville, Va., where the first round awaits.

“It’s strong. It’s really strong,” the head coach said about the regional. “Virginia will be really well-balanced. We have to come out ready to play.”

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