Commentary: 2014 best of bad situation for Hawks


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To call the situation the Iowa field-hockey team finds itself in at the end of the 2014 season disappointing would be an under-statement.

After all, the Black and Gold entered 2014 as a team riding high expectations. A run to the 2013 Big Ten Tournament championship and the return of a few of the most dynamic forwards in the nation had the Black and Gold set up for another breakout season.

It was a season that ultimately ended, however, in an early exit and a rather mundane 11-7 record.

When put like that, 2014 seems like one of the bigger shortcomings the field-hockey team has experienced in quite some time.

And it’s a fair statement to make. 

However, all things considered, things could have ended up much worse for the Hawkeyes.

They lost Tracey Griesbaum, their head coach of 14 years, rather abruptly just weeks before the season started, a situation that has yet to resolve itself.

Furthermore, the 2014 Hawkeyes were one of the youngest teams in the Big Ten — as well as the country — in a conference built on experience.

Compounding all of this is that they were dealt significant injuries at a time when they could ill-afford them.

All of these things combined for one of the most unlikely, and perhaps unfair, seasons in recent memory. That considered, 11-7 isn’t half bad. 

Are five conference losses, two of which were at home, too many for a team with as much pedigree as Iowa? Sure they are.

But think about the team as a whole. Yes, the Hawks boast perhaps the best 1-2 scoring punch in the nation with Natalie Cafone and Steph Norlander up front. But the rest of the team? Two-thirds underclassmen, many of whom lacked a single season of college experience.

And while no team is safe from the injury bug, Iowa was hit particularly hard by it this season, losing the services of senior Sara Watro and Sophie Plasteras from their midfield line during a season-changing losing streak.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of coaching. Make no mistake, Lisa Cellucci has all the pedigree and ability to lead a wining team, but the timing could not have been worse for her team.

For more than a decade, Griesbaum was Iowa field hockey. Her style and personnel stamp was on everything the Hawkeyes did, day in and day out.

When she was fired, the Hawks not only lost their coach, they lost their identity. 

So yes, 2014 was a huge disappointment for Iowa field hockey. In a way, it was bound to be no matter what happened. 

But it was the best of a bad situation. Had the Black and Gold stumbled even worse in 2014, it wouldn’t have been a shock. 

It is how the Hawks handle things going forward that will show the true character of everyone involved. 

A full year of experience and adversity can only help Iowa from here on out.

It’s virtually impossible that Griesbaum will return. Neither will seniors Dani Hemeon, Brynn Gitt, or Watro. 

What Iowa does in spite of these facts is what will end up making the difference.

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

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