Hawkeyes Ready For Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Aug. 25, 2009

The University of Iowa field hockey team opens the 2009 campaign with the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Iowa, the defending three-time Big Ten Tournament champion and 2008 NCAA Final Four participant, will be the host school for the eighth annual tournament. The Black and Gold, ranked ninth nationally, will face defending NCAA runner-up Wake Forest Saturday at 11:30 a.m. Iowa will play 2007 National Champion North Carolina Sunday at 11:30 a.m. Both games will be played at Grant Field. Admission is free.

Wake Forest opens the 2009 regular season Saturday against the Hawkeyes. They are ranked second in the preseason NFHCA rankings. In 2008, the Demon Deacons finished 22-4 and lost to Maryland in the NCAA National Championship game. Wake Forest is led by Head Coach Jennifer Averill. She is in her 19th season at the helm of the program. Averill holds an all-time record of 299-137-6 in 18 years as a head coach. She has led the Demon Deacons to nine-straight NCAA Final Four appearances.

North Carolina opens the regular season Saturday against Michigan. The game will be played in Iowa City. They are ranked fourth in the preseason NFHCA rankings. The Tar Heels return eight starters and 15 letterwinners from a team that finished 14-6 in 2008. The Blue and White fell to Michigan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season. North Carolina is led by Head Coach Karen Shelton. In 28 years at the helm of the program, she holds an all-time record of 462-131-9. The Tar Heels have made 25 appearances in the NCAA Tournament and have claimed five NCAA Championships, most recently in 2007.

The 2009 Big Ten/ACC Challenge marks the eighth year of the annual tournament. Iowa is 3-11 all-time in the Challenge, playing Wake Forest and North Carolina once each year. Last season the tournament was held in Winston-Salem, NC. There, the Black and Gold opened the season with a loss at third-ranked Wake Forest, 3-2. The Hawkeyes then knocked-off No. 1-ranked and defending national champion North Carolina 3-2, ending the Tar Heels’ 25-match winning streak. Iowa is 2-7 all-time against Wake Forest and 3-18 versus North Carolina.

The Hawkeyes are ranked ninth in the preseason NFHCA rankings. Iowa will play ten of the NFHCA top 20 this season. In addition, the Hawkeyes will play five of the teams receiving votes in the latest poll. The Big Ten Conference currently has five teams ranked in the top 20. Michigan State sits at eighth in the latest rankings. Joining the Spartans are the Hawkeyes (No. 9), Penn State (No. 11), Ohio State (No. 18) and Michigan (No. 19). All Big Ten teams are at least receiving votes as both Northwestern and Indiana received votes. The Hawkeyes have been ranked in the top 20 of the NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll for 21 straight weeks dating back to 2006. The Hawkeyes have yet to fall out of the top 10 of the poll since the start of 2007.

Iowa had quite the season in 2008, finishing 18-5 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes won their third-straight Big Ten Tournament Championship, reached their 20th NCAA Tournament in program history and advanced to the NCAA Final Four for the 11th time in program history. The Black and Gold defeated nine nationally-ranked opponents during the season and Head Coach Tracey Griesbaum was named NFHCA West Region Coach of the Year.

Five Hawkeyes were named all-Big Ten. Lauren Pfeiffer, Roz Ellis and Caroline Blaum were all named to the first team. Meghan Beamesderfer and Lissa Munley were named to the second team. Pfeiffer and Tricia Dean were each named to the Big Ten Tournament Team, as Pfeiffer took MVP honors.

Six Hawkeyes were named West Region all-Americans. First team honorees included Blaum, Ellis, Munley, Pfeiffer and Beamesderfer. Katie Naughton was named to the second team. Pfeiffer and Ellis were named to the NCAA Tournament all-tournament team for their efforts in Iowa’s run to the Final Four.

Additionally, three Hawkeyes garnered national all-American honors. Blaum, now an assistant coach on the Iowa staff, and Pfeiffer, now a volunteer coach at Iowa, were named to the first team. Ellis was named to the second team. Pfeiffer also won the Big Ten Medal of Honor and was named a finalist for the Honda Award.

The Iowa field hockey team appeared on the Big Ten Network more than any other conference school last season – six times. Iowa’s games at Michigan and against Penn State will both be televised by the Big Ten Network this season. Both games will be shown on a tape-delayed basis in Big Ten Network (HD).

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