Field hockey filled with familiar faces


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For the Iowa field-hockey players, Iowa City is a home away from home.

They live here. They go to school here. A few of them even go on to stay here after college.

But for more than a few, it goes even deeper than that: They get to play with some of the same athletes whom they’ve known since high school.

“I played a lot against Natalie [Cafone] in high school,” sophomore goalkeeper Alex Pecora said. “Chandler [Ackers] too. We were bitter rivals back then, and now it’s great just to have such a good relationship with so many of these girls after playing against them growing up.”

A hotbed for high school and college field hockey, the East has given Iowa more than dozen players on the current roster, including four from eastern Pennsylvania, three from New Jersey, four from Virginia, and one from New York.

Former enemies, Pecora — a graduate of Bishop Eustace in Marlton, New Jersey — and others have now seen the roles reversed, playing along side many of the same girls they fought against back home. 

And while the rivalry was intense then, the transition from opponent to teammate has been nothing but flawless.

“Especially freshman year coming in, it was hard to move over 15 hours away from your family,” Pecora said. “So just having that community with you every day is really, really special.  It’s just nice to know that we’re all in the same boat.”

Having so many former neighbors on one team has given many members of the Black and Gold an added bond.

“It’s cool because there are so many of us from back home where we played our whole lives, and we come here to Iowa play field hockey together,” freshman Mallory Lefkowitz said.

Lefkowitz, who hails from Kingston, Pennsylvania, and is a gradute of Wyoming Seminary, said this trend is not unique to Iowa.

“I have a lot of friends playing all over the Big Ten from back home,” Lefkowitz said.  “Anytime we play Michigan and Ohio State and Northwestern, I know it’s going to be a reunion.”

In a way, it’s not incredibly surprising, given the utter lack of high school field-hockey programs in the Midwest, Iowa in particular. 

The East has long been a pipeline for elite field-hockey talent, and Iowa has always been successful at tapping into it, even if many of the Hawkeye faithful don’t fully appreciate every aspect of the game.

“Sometimes we’ll walk through the airport here, and people will come up to us and ask us what field hockey is,” Pecora said. “It’s been cool to introduce a sport into a place where it hasn’t always been so popular.”

And what may seem weird to some has become a joy for the Black and Gold.

“I think it’s really fun, playing with so many girls I knew from back home,” said Cafone, who graduated from West Essex high school in North Caldwell, New Jersey. “It’s pretty cool that we’ve got girls from the both coasts and out of country, all playing for one team.”

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

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