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Norlander plays internationally

BY MARIO WILLIAMS | APRIL 02, 2015 5:00 AM

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Iowa field-hockey player Stephanie Norlander not only competes for the Hawkeyes, she competes for her country.

Norlander, a native of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada is a member of the Canadian National team and could potentially be apart of a historic moment — the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The junior-to-be competed in a series of two rounds, which were held by the Hockey World League. Round one was held in Guadalajara, Mexico, on Sept. 11-14, and round two concluded on March 14-22 in Dublin. Her team finished in the top two, which snagged it a spot to compete in World League round three. That tournament is scheduled to be held in June in Spain, and the top three teams will qualify for the Olympic Games.

“This is nothing I’ve ever experienced in field hockey,” Norlander said. “Having the opportunity to play in a tournament that will qualify me for the Olympics is unreal, and I’m super excited to go and hopefully qualify.”

The competition level and speed on the international stage is much different from the NCAA. For Norlander, international games are intense and challenging. The forward/midfielder said there’s no room for error while playing at that level of competition.

Natalie Cafone, a Hawkeye teammate and best friend of Norlander, finds no surprise in her teammate’s success and her potentially competing in the Olympics.

“I think it’s really awesome that she’s doing what she’s doing,” she said. “Even though she’s not here training with us we know she’s developing into a really big player, and she’s doing really well. It’s really inspiring watching her.”

It isn’t always easy being away from the Hawkeyes. Norlander keeps her team and coaches updated on her progress and standings. Her head coach and teammates live-stream her tournaments as well.
Another difficult task for the forward/midfielder is balancing her schoolwork and traveling. Being a student-athlete who travels consistently isn’t always the easiest.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” she said. “I’ve been fortunate enough that I got special permission to take online courses; usually athletes can’t take more than one online course. Traveling can also be a bit far sometimes.”

Another challenge that Norlander may face is the fierce competition that will be at World League round three.

However, Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci is confident that her athlete will rise to occasion. In fact, Norlander will be one of the youngest athletes playing on the field.

“Their team has continued to progress,” Cellucci said. “I think she’ll be outstanding.  From what I’ve seen so far on the games, I think she will be great. She has a lot of endurance and outstanding speed, and that’s something that will help her compete on that level.”

With this, Cellucci believes having an athlete such as Norlander who can compete internationally is a big asset to the Hawkeyes. Her team leadership and the intensity in her game is certainly necessary.

“Her experience is invaluable to our team,” Cellucci said. “Just to have her play helps us tremendously. To have her influence on the team just really raises everyone else’s level on the team.”


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