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Cafone set to make history against Penn State

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | OCTOBER 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Natalie Cafone will not be one of the three players honored on Senior Day before the Iowa field-hockey team takes on Penn State Saturday. 

A junior, Cafone still has one more year before leaving the program she has been a part of since 2011. Nevertheless, all eyes will be on her anyway.

With 45 career goals to her credit since first donning the Black and Gold, Cafone is one goal shy of breaking into the top ten all-time for goals scored by an Iowa player, passing the mark former All-American Diane DeMiro set more than two decades ago.

“It’s going to be awesome to see it and be there for it once it happens,” interim head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “She’s already rewritten some of the record books in the three years she’s been here, so to see her break into the top ten all-time as a junior is pretty unbelievable.”

And while breaking into the top ten will undoubtedly be special for Cafone, it holds meaning beyond just the numbers.

That’s because DeMiro, who will be in attendance at Grant Field on Saturday, was Cafone’s high-school coach at West Essex in North Caldwell, New Jersey, and watched Cafone as she developed into one of the most talented field-hockey players the state has ever produced.

With her former mentor’s record in sight, Cafone will try to add another chapter to her meteoric career.

“We’re still really close, so to have her come to Iowa to watch will be pretty cool,” Cafone said. “We talk pretty much every day. She’s seen me play when we go out to the East Coast, but to have her actually come here will be pretty cool.”

Cafone was a four-year varsity letter winner in three sports in high school and hold the West Essex career points record for girls’ field hockey with 350 career points in four years. 

While Cafone had offers from all over the country, DeMiro persuaded her to go to Iowa.

Now, Cafone honors her former coach by wearing No. 9, the same number DeMiro wore as a Hawkeye.

“I originally started with 7, but when I noticed that No. 9 was up for grabs after its previous owner graduated, I asked Lisa if I could wear it, and she said yes,” Cafone said. 

But while personal records and accolades are always great, Cafone and the rest of the Hawkeye’s focus is still on the task at hand: beating No. 4 Penn State squad and earning a win against a ranked opponent for the first time since Indiana on Sept. 26.

Another loss Saturday would move the Hawkeyes to 3-4 in conference and virtually end any hopes the Hawks have to earn an at-large bid for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. 

“It’s a must-win game for us,” sophomore Steph Norlander said.  “It’s super motivating to know we have a highly ranked opponent coming in to face us this weekend. It’s huge.”

Cellucci is hoping all goes well for the Black and Gold, with the chance to witness history on the field and earn a pivotal victory for her team. 

“Natalie’s focus is always on the team, as is all of ours,” Cellucci said. “So I hope she keeps scoring like she has been, because it’s going to help the team, too.”

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


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