Field Hawks head to Virginia for NCAA tournament


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Iowa’s field-hockey team still hadn’t peaked with one weekend left in the regular season. Senior Geena Lesiak was still confident, but she didn’t think her team had played to its potential with just two regular-season games remaining.

“But I think we can,” she said on Oct. 23, before Iowa took on then-eighth-ranked Northwestern. “I think we’ll see it in the upcoming weeks.”

She was right.

A number of the Iowa field-hockey seniors agreed that their team hadn’t hit its full stride prior to the Big Ten tournament. The Hawkeyes were still waiting to play two complete halves of a game with minimal mistakes, a stout defense, and a blistering frontline attack.

The last three games Iowa has played, though, helped to change that opinion.

Two comeback victories and a highly contested match with No. 4 Penn State have brought out the best the Hawkeyes have to offer, helping to radiate confidence as they prepare for the first round of the NCAA tournamenT this weekend.

“Coming off that loss [to Penn State] was hard,” senior captain Jessica Barnett said. “But I think it’s going to give us a lot of momentum to propel us forward into this tournament.”

Iowa will need as much momentum as it can gather for Saturday’s matchup with Virginia. Head coach Tracey Griesbaum labeled the Cavaliers as a top-four team in the country, despite earning seventh spot in the field of 16.

The ACC has been routinely at the top of the field-hockey rankings, having won 17 national championships dating back to 1981.

The rest of the country has only won 14 national titles combined in that time span.

The Hawk seniors are also aware that this could be the end. There was some minor uncertainty prior to Tuesday’s announcement of the NCAA field about whether Iowa would continue to play this season. But all doubt has now been removed, causing the seniors to enter this weekend with “do-or-die” mindsets.

Griesbaum helped instill that mindset. The 13-year head coach has taken her teams to six of the last nine NCAA Tournaments, including each of the last two seasons. She’s seen seniors every year leave everything they have on the field each time they play in the tournament, and this year’s group is no different.

“Coaching isn’t really about the coaches. It’s about the program and the players on the team that given year,” Griesbaum said. “I’m really proud of them, and I know they’re going to take advantage of the opportunity.”

Iowa is also confident about the matchup, knowing that anything can happen. This mantra was proven true when seventh-seeded Indiana made Big Ten history by trouncing second-seed Northwestern, 4-0, in the first-round of the conference tournament. It was the first time that a second-seeded team lost in the first-round.

Indiana disposed of the Wildcats and knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament, which only helps to solidify Griesbaum’s maxim since the beginning of Big Ten regular-season play.

“Anything can happen,” she said. “Especially now that it’s tournament time.”

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