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Field hockey preps for season after summer of turmoil

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | AUGUST 28, 2014 5:00 AM

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Though the season hasn’t even started yet, the Iowa field-hockey team has been fed its share of adversity.

After coming off a breakout season that saw the Black and Gold reach the finals of the Big Ten Tournament, Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta announced on Aug. 5 that then-head coach Tracey Griesbaum would be bought out of her remaining contract.

“Although Tracey won’t be there with us physically, she’ll be in our hearts and in our minds,” junior Natalie Cafone said.  “We obviously still have a lot to play for.”

The Hawks were suddenly without Griesbaum, who had been at the head of an extremely successful program the past 15 years.

 “It’s less the day-to-day responsibilities that have changed for me and more the fact that I’ve had to operate without the person whose been by my side for so many years,” said assistant head coach Lisa Cellucci, who became interim head coach. 

Griesbaum was mysteriously terminated after allegations of mental and verbal abuse came to light from a handful of former players.

But many current players vehemently deny the validity of these claims. 

“We don’t benefit from her being fired, despite those believing that this was in our best interest,” members of the team said in a statement released last week. “Tracey being our coach is in our best interest.”

Now, the Hawkeyes must forge on without Griesbaum’s guidance in a season filled with high expectations.

Right off the bat, the No. 20-ranked Hawkeyes will play stiff competition, facing No. 11 Wake Forrest and No.2 North Carolina this weekend in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

A week later, the team will host No. 6 Virginia before heading off on a West Coast trip for three games, including a tilt at No. 12 Stanford.

And that’s all before the Hawks’ dog of a Big Ten Schedule, which includes four ranked opponents. That becomes more of a challenge because of the team’s age: this year’s squad features 10 freshmen and just four returning starters from last season. 

Nevertheless, the Hawkeyes know they have unfinished business on the field and are committed to honoring their former coach by playing hard in every game.

“We have a thing where we cross the line, and once we cross that line, we leave everything that happens outside of the field off of the field, and we just focus on playing our game,” senior Sara Watro said.

“Once the game starts, our only focus is putting a good product out on the field.”

Of course it doesn’t hurt having Cafone on their side. The Fairfield, New Jersey, native led the Big Ten in goals last season with 22 and points with 52.

“I think it does serve as some extra motivation for us,” Cafone said.  “We’ve been ready all summer to get back, but playing for her in addition to everything else, we’re definitely a strong team.”


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