Field Hawk Hemeon utilizes winter break experience 'Down Under'


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Dani Hemeon sat inside the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex in seemingly better shape than most of her other field-hockey teammates. She smiled big, likely trying to conceal any sense of jet lag that might have remained.

But Hemeon’s newly tanned skin couldn’t be hidden. There was no attempt — much like there was no hesitation when she was asked about her recent trip to Australia to compete with the USA U21 Junior National Field Hockey squad.

“It was awesome. It was such a cool experience,” she said. “I can’t even explain it. It was just so cool.”

The Hawkeye sophomore returned Monday from a trip to the Down Under with the U.S. junior women’s field-hockey team. There, a team composed of 17 field-hockey prospects —21 and under — competed at the U21 New Zealand Tour from Jan. 8-12 before moving on to compete in the Australian Youth Olympic Festival from Jan. 14-20.

The New Zealand Tour consisted of four games against the New Zealand junior women’s team. Hemeon and Team USA flourished, earning a 3-1 record. The Gilroy, Calif., native said the series was a good buildup to the competition the players would face in Australia.

“New Zealand’s a great team,” Hemeon said. “But like, China and Australia and Great Britain are probably, I’d say, better. So it was a good test series to work on all the little things.”

Fine-tuning their technique became crucial during the New Zealand games for Team USA. Hemeon said the whole team only gathered for a few days for a training camp in Southern California before flying down to play the Kiwis.

But Australia provided a different, tougher test for the USA’s junior team — one that showcased a different kind of field hockey, Hemeon said.

China’s junior team displayed a new level of speed and cruised to a 5-2 win over the U.S. Australia gained momentum at the end of the first half to rally for a 4-2 victory over America’s team.

On their final day of competition, Team USA nearly clipped the team from Great Britain but lost a heartbreaker in overtime. Though an 0-3 record didn’t necessarily please Hemeon and her team, it was the learning experience that would serve as motivation for her.

“It was definitely a really good growing experience,” she said. “It was really good to get this competition in … We definitely learned a lot.”

Hemeon’s experience generated a huge smile from Iowa field-hockey head coach Tracey Griesbaum. She said this kind of opportunity isn’t one that comes often for many women in the sport, and she supported her athlete from the beginning of the process.

This Team USA episode is also a good way to help raise the level of the Iowa field-hockey practices. Hemeon’s representation in the red, white and blue uniform — wearing the actual USA jersey was her favorite part of the entire adventure — will likely help motivate Hemeon’s teammates to some day join her in the future.

“We all sat down at a meeting and went over what we all did over the winter break,” Griesbaum said. “And she was the only one who got to play organized hockey.”

There’s a Hawkeye lineage on the USA field-hockey team, both at the junior and senior levels. One of the more recent members happens of Team USA to be one of Hemeon’s coaches, Meghan Beamesderfer. She traveled to Ireland in late September to compete with the U.S. Developmental Field-Hockey Team.

The assistant coach agreed that this experience cannot only benefit the individual who takes part but in the whole team as well.

“It’s definitely the highest level of field hockey you can get,” Beamesderfer told The Daily Iowan on Sept. 19, 2012. “Hopefully, [the experience] will help me get these girls to play at a higher level, too.”

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