Iowa field hockey set for Big Ten Tournament


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The Iowa field-hockey team has had an up-and-down season.

Extreme highs from impressive upsets on the road, crushing lows from devastating defeats at home, and everything in between helped to shape the Hawkeyes’ 11-6 record.

Come Thursday however, none of that will matter.

The Black and Gold will go into the tournament at 0-0, just like the other seven teams completing. It’s a clean slate, a brand-new season.

“It really is a whole new season,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “I think we’re the team to beat in the tournament this season, because we can beat anybody when we play well and to our full ability.”

Starting Thursday, the Hawks will get the opportunity to put their season aside and concentrate entirely on survival. No more rankings or RPI to worry about, just two teams going full bore for 70 minutes.

Winner moves on. Loser goes home. It’s that simple.

“We like to call the tournament our new season or new life,” goalkeeper Alex Pecora said. “We’ve really ironed out a lot of the problems that we needed to work on in the regular season, and now we can put it to use in tournament play.”

An out-of-nowhere performance wouldn’t exactly be out of character for the Hawks, either.

After all, just one year ago, a fifth-seeded Iowa squad caught fire and went on Cinderella run that saw it finish just one goal shy of a tournament championship.

And although this year’s squad has an entirely different look, the memories of those who were there in 2013 have not faded beyond memory.

For a team that has played arguably its best field hockey of the season down the stretch, the Big Ten Tournament may just hold another coming out party for the Black and Gold.

“It’s lose or go home, so starting out strong is a must for us,” senior Dani Hemeon said. “You’ve got to take it one game at a time but realize that you have to win on Thursday to keep going on Friday.”

Hemeon, one of three Iowa seniors who will play in their last Big Ten Tournament come Thursday, still remembers vividly the run her team went on in 2013.

A four-year veteran such as Hemeon knows that come tourney time anything is possible, and the improbable usually does happen.

That’s the beauty of the tournament, after all.

“We’re excited for the clean slate and also to show off some of the adjustments we’ve made,” Hemeon said. “Most of these teams haven’t really had the chance to see who we’ve become the last month or so.”

Two new teams have changed the landscape of the tournament this year, and with eight teams making the cut instead of the usual seven, there are no automatic byes into the second round.

It’s a change that has made the tournament much tougher and all the more improbable.

Not that that’s a bad thing, though.

“These guys know that it’s do or die starting on Thursday,” Cellucci said. “It’s a whole new part of the season, and we’re excited about the draws.”

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

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