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Iowa’s forward core a deadly combination

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | OCTOBER 08, 2014 5:00 AM

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Most field-hockey programs are lucky enough to have one dynamic player on the roster that they can count on for constant offense game in and game out.

Very few are lucky enough to have two.

It’s a luxury Iowa interim head coach Lisa Cellucci has and one she has come to appreciate this season, as the dynamic duo of Stephanie Norlander and Natalie Cafone has carried the Iowa for much of the season, burning through the competition in the process. 

The duo, when paired with freshman forward Mallory Lefkowitz, form one of the deadliest trifectas in the country, one that few teams in the Big Ten can match up with head-to-head. 

“They all have so much speed and can run with each other up and down the field, so that’s obviously a huge advantage that they have together,” Cellucci said. “They all are able to set up in front of the net and create wonderful scoring opportunities for us.”  

Just how dominant have they been?  Since the start of the 2014 season, Norlander, Cafone, and Lefkowitz have combined for 28 goals and 67 points, nearly 70 percent of Iowa’s total offense.

An offense, mind you, that currently ranks first in the Big Ten in goals per game and total goals scored.

“I think Nat and I both have a lot of quickness up front, and that’s what’s been killing teams so far this year,” Norlander said. “It’s something I think we need to keep using to our advantage.”

But it’s not just pure skill and speed that makes the trio so deadly. Team chemistry, as well as a complementary playing styles help Norlander, Cafone, and Lefkowitz run like a well-oiled machine.

Norlander and her nose in front of the net, combined with the creativity and playmaking ability of Cafone and Lefkowitz or senior Sara Watro out wide provides a multifaceted attack that can score goals any number of ways.

“It has a lot to do with communication and thinking ahead of each other,” Lefkowitz said. “Knowing that no matter what ball is there, one of us is going to get to it and we’re going to be there for reach other and support it.”

Lefkowitz, a true freshman who has started four of 11 games this season, has had no trouble getting acclimated to her new line mates with the Black and Gold.

And while she is young, Lefkowitz has proven herself more than capable of handling the high skill level of Cafone and Norlander, two players she admired long before she stepped foot on Iowa’s campus.

“It’s seriously an honor to play with those two,” Lefkowitz said. “Before I even got here, I looked up to both of them with their skill and speed as something that I wanted to try to keep striving towards.”

Cafone, who scored the lone Iowa goal in their 3-1 home loss to Northwestern on Sunday, knows that the opportunity to make plays is always an option when those three are out on the field together.

“We’re all a really hard-working group, and I think if we keep working like we’ve been we can continue to have success,” Cafone said. 

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


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