Nov. 12, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa senior back Lauren Pfeiffer is scared.
The reigning Big Ten Conference Tournament MVP doesn’t fear any field hockey opponent standing in the Hawkeyes’ way, but she is much more wary of the end of the season.
“We’re more excited this year than any other,” Pfeiffer said at a media conference Wednesday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “The whole fact that we may be finished is scary and we totally don’t want it to end. Our biggest goal now is to get past the first round.”
Three-time Big Ten Conference Tournament champion Iowa (16-4 overall) has qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season. The No. 6 Hawkeyes earned the fourth seed in the tournament and will open against No. 13 Louisville (14-6) on Saturday, Nov. 15, at 11:30 a.m., in East Lansing, Mich.
“I’m very confident,” said UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum. “Our stance we’ve had all season is going to be in place — whoever is standing in our way, we’re going to tackle them head-on.”
This is the fourth postseason trip for Iowa in Griesbaum’s nine seasons and the fourth time in five years. The Hawkeyes lost 2-1 to American in 2004, lost 1-0 to Virginia in 2006 and lost 1-0 to Boston University in 2007.
“We just want to play in the second round. After last year and after two years ago, we looked at what we would have done different — if anything — and we really couldn’t come up with anything other than things that were out of our control.
“I like the fact our (2008) Big Ten Tournament wasn’t a flight, so we were able to handle ourselves and recover a little differently with our bodies. What’s been successful for us this year is what we’ve been doing and we’re going to stick with it.”
“We just want to play in the second round,” Griesbaum said. “After last year and after two years ago, we looked at what we would have done different — if anything — and we really couldn’t come up with anything other than things that were out of our control. I like the fact our (2008) Big Ten Tournament wasn’t a flight, so we were able to handle ourselves and recover a little differently with our bodies. What’s been successful for us this year is what we’ve been doing and we’re going to stick with it.”
UI senior goalkeeper Lissa Munley — one of eight Hawkeye seniors — knows that experience and experiences can work two ways. Yes, this is an experienced Iowa team, but it is also one with some not-so-great NCAA first-round memories.
“We know what to expect, but we can’t rely on what has happened in the past to go on with the future,” Munley said. “This is a different atmosphere and there is going to be more at stake and it’s going to be a good time to do it again.”
Of the four host institutions for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, Iowa is the only seeded team that was sent on the road. That doesn’t faze the Hawkeyes, who say they enjoy bus rides as opposed to flying and have three consecutive wins over possible second-round foe (and host school) Michigan State. The Spartans open against No. 7 North Carolina, a team the Hawkeyes defeated 3-2 on Aug. 31 when the defending national champion Tar Heels were ranked No. 1.
Iowa also defeated its first-round opponent, Louisville, 1-0 on Sept. 28 on the road.
“It felt a little anticlimactic because we’ve played all those teams before,” Griesbaum said. “You’re thinking this is the NCAA Tournament, ideally it would have been nice to have a different flare to it, but we’re ready.”
The Hawkeyes won’t sneak up on any teams, either, which is just fine with them. They are seasoned in the favorite’s role after fighting through the Big Ten Tournament and winning in overtime in both the semifinals and finals.
“Being the No. 2 seed (in conference) we weren’t really the underdog anymore,” Griesbaum said. “The target was a little bigger on our back than years past.”
The question repeatedly came up whether Griesbaum and the Hawkeyes felt slighted not hosting the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament at Grant Field.
“I wasn’t on the committee this year,” Griesbaum said. “I would have to think that the premise for the NCAA is a lot of regional factors. In the same sense, perhaps we could have hosted and had the same teams flying in. That’s out of my control. I don’t have the exact answers.”
Iowa’s senior class has compiled a four-year record of 55-25. Perhaps more importantly is how they have fared in the month of November. Entering this weekend, that total is 10 wins and just three losses.