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Matchup with Virginia a golden opportunity

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | SEPTEMBER 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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Opportunities like this don’t come around very often.

With the Iowa field-hockey team set to open its home schedule tonight, the Hawkeyes have a chance to make a statement in a huge way by knocking off preseason No. 1 Virginia.

While a 3-0 loss to Penn State last weekend will likely drop the Cavaliers several spots in the next rankings, Virginia is still an elite team that finished fourth in a powerhouse ACC last season.

“It’d be a huge statement,” goalkeeper Alex Pecora said. “As well as a testament to how hard we work as a team and all the adversity we’ve had to overcome these past couple weeks.”

The Hawkeyes last met Virginia in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, with the Black and Gold falling to the Cavaliers, 3-2. It was a game that interim head coach Lisa Cellucci has not forgotten.

“We had a 2-goal lead in that game but gave it up and lost 3-2,” she said. “At the time, we matched up with them great, and I think we can do the same this year. I’d definitely love to get them back on our home field.”

This incarnation of the team is ready for revenge, and they’re prepared to deliver it to their fans at Grant Field.

“Especially for the juniors and seniors, since we were actually on that team,” senior Dani Hemeon said. “We don’t want to focus on it too much, but it’s obviously still in the back of our minds.”

The Hawkeyes are certainly no stranger to the ACC, given that the Black and Gold have played in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge every year since its inception in 2002. The Hawks most recent trip netted them a 4-1 win against No. 11 Wake Forrest and 4-1 loss to No. 2 North Carolina.

Still, Cellucci’s team is mindful of the skill this Virginia team brings to the table, but luckily for them, it’s their turn to play host.

“Playing at home is a huge advantage for us,” Cellucci said.  “I think were something like [133-42] all time at Grant Field, so most of the time people don’t leave here very happy, and we’d like to keep it that way.”

But for all Virginia’s skill, the Hawkeyes have enough talent of their own to go toe-to toe with anybody.

The Black and Gold were an offensive force last season, leading the Big Ten in goals with 69 in 21 games. 

And while the team has lost a few key seniors from that squad, leading scorers such as Hemeon, Stephanie Norlander, and reigning Big Ten points leader Natalie Cafone are still with the team.    

With a three-game West Coast road trip on the horizon after tonight’s tilt with Virginia, a statement win like this would give the Hawkeyes a major boost before heading to California.

“It could really show everyone what we have in store for the rest of the season,” Hemeon said. “Knocking off a good team is big mentally, but it’s also going to make other schools think twice when they play us here.”


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