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Field hockey embraces youth

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | SEPTEMBER 17, 2014 5:00 AM

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They came in as freshmen, but after only a few weeks, the Iowa field-hockey team’s newest groups of first-year players are being treated like seasoned veterans.

“We told them right as the season was starting, ‘You’re not freshmen anymore,’ ” interim head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “You’ve got to be ready to go.”

The Black and Gold are not a group prone to sheltering their youth.

“We recruited all these girls, so I’m not surprised with their development,” Cellucci said. “We knew the athletic ability and physicality they all had going in was what would help lead to their success.”

The Hawkeyes, who went 4-2 this year in pre-conference play, will open their Big Ten slate Sept. 21 with one of the youngest teams in the Big Ten as well as the country.

With a roster composed of 10 freshmen and five sophomores, Iowa’s core of underclassmen will be the backbone of the team for years to come, and while they may be young, many of the freshmen have wasted no time contributing to the Hawks this season.

Almost all have seen the field at some point, with nearly a half dozen taking on full-time starting roles.

“I think as a class, focusing in on what a lot of the upper classmen are teaching us is big,” freshman Mallory Lefkowitz said. “They already have taught us a lot, so it’s just a really great experience to be a part of this year.”

Lefkowitz, who scored her first career goal as a Hawkeyes on Sept. 11 against Cal-Davis, says that her teammates are a big reason so many of Iowa’s young guns have had success.

“Being on a forward line with girls like Natalie [Cafone] and Steph [Norlander] has helped a ton,” Lefkowitz said. “They’re both such talented players. I look off of them to see what stuff I can pick up because they’re two really good role models. “ Iowa’s players make perfect teachers for their younger teammates; after all, many of them have been through the same thing. 

“We’re here one for support and guidance but also to show them the ways of Iowa field hockey,” sophomore Jesse Silfer said. “They’ve been really embracing it and stepping up, which is great to see.”

Silfer, who came in as a freshman in 2013 and started all 21 games, knows exactly the adjustments that some of her teammates are going through.

“I think just helping them with structure is big,” she said. “We’re a very organized team, and I think one of the big things that I had to learn was how to prepare, and that preparation does breed confidence.” 

It’s a system Cellucci and former head coach Tracey Griesbaum have implemented for years.

Success starts from the bottom up, and for Cellucci, the more experience as a freshman, the better. 

Of course, it doesn’t hurt to know that character of the athletes you’re bringing in, either.

“We try to recruit athletes but good people as well,” Cellucci said. “Girls who are adaptable, flexible, and willing to buy-in and play any role that they have to win. That’s who we go after.”

Follow @ryanarod on Twitter for news, updates, and analysis about the Iowa field-hockey team.


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