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Pregame rituals help Hawks stay focused

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | OCTOBER 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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When the Iowa field-hockey team takes the field against Michigan tonight at Grant Field, the Black and Gold will start the same way they have for years.

After hanging up their sticks on the cross bar of keeper Alex Pecora’s net, all 21 Hawks will line up near the end line of the field.

They will bend down, tap each other on the legs, and begin a pregame ritual that has been an Iowa tradition long before any of the current members of the team ever set foot on campus.

“It’s something we’ve always done,” sophomore Steph Norlander said. “Honestly, I don’t really know how it started, but it’s something we’ve always done to get us ready and help us get focused.”

After several more passes and word of encouragement form their teammates, the Hawks break ranks, hop over the end line, and run to grab their sticks.

All in all, the entire act takes about a minute, but for members of the Black and Gold, starting a game without it would be unheard of.

“I think we do have a lot of traditions and rituals that we do like to follow, and that’s what makes us Iowa field hockey,” Norlander said. “It’s just a great way to get us psyched up for the game.”

And while the team as a whole has kept the tradition alive, a lot of Iowa field-hockey players have traditions of their own that they adhere to as well.

“I know for me personally, I always have to put my stick next to Dani [Hemeon]’s,” Natalie Cafone said. “We have the same routine and go through the same stuff before every game, so I’d say we’re definitely a little superstitious.”

Better believe that today around 7 p.m., the Hawkeyes will be right where they always are, ready to defend Grant Field from whatever visiting school is in town.

And, given the severity of Iowa’s last home game, a stunning 3-1 loss to Northwestern, that pregame warm-up will carry a little extra intensity.

The Hawks, who had not lost at home all season before falling to the Wildcats, will be out for revenge as the No. 14 Wolverines roll into Iowa City and try to hand them their second loss in a row.

“First and foremost, our outletting structure needs to be better than it was against Northwestern,” interim head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “That, as well as our overall defensive presence on the field, has to be better if we want to beat a tough team like Michigan.”

Last weekend, the Wildcats were able to key in on Iowa’s main offensive threats of Norlander and Cafone, “man-marking” them all game.

By effectively shutting down the duo, the Wildcats blunted and frustrated the Iowa attack past the point of repair, and while Cafone did manage a goal, it was not nearly enough to secure a win.

This week, a more balanced attack utilizing every player Iowa has at its disposal will be the ticket to victory.

“We have to be able to use everybody,” Cellucci said. “Teams are starting to hone in on Nat and Steph and shut them down, so we need to make sure everybody gets involved.”

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


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