Aug. 27, 2009
- Iowa and the Big Ten Network
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch (2009-10 season)
Year-in and year-out Iowa plays one of the toughest schedules in the country. Last season, the Black and Gold defeated nine nationally ranked teams en route to the 2008 NCAA Final Four. This season, the Hawkeyes are scheduled to play ten teams currently ranked in the top 20.
This weekend, Iowa is the host school for the eighth annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The Challenge provides the Hawkeyes with the opportunity to face top competition each year in playing traditional powers Wake Forest and North Carolina.
This year is no exception. Iowa will open the 2009 regular Saturday against Wake Forest at 11:30 a.m. at Grant Field. The Demon Deacons were the national runner-up in 2008 and begin 2009 ranked second nationally. They have reached nine-straight NCAA Final Fours.
Sunday, the Hawkeyes will take on North Carolina at 11:30 a.m. North Carolina, the 2007 National Champion, is ranked fourth nationally. The Tar Heels have claimed five NCAA Championships all-time.
The Hawkeyes will have the chance to see where they stand right away.
“It is a great way to start the season,” said senior co-captain Meghan Beamesderfer. “It is great to see how our skills are coming together. We are one of the top teams in the country and this gives us a chance to see how we match up against them and see how we compare.”
Fellow senior co-captain Tricia Dean echoed Beamesderfer’s thoughts.
“This weekend definitely sets a standard of what we expect for the season. I think we can come out of the weekend with two big wins but at the same time we will know exactly where we stand and how much work we have to do.”
Head Coach Tracey Griesbaum also enjoys the opportunity to face top competition at the outset of the season.
“We don’t have a winning record in this tournament over the years, but we play the best competition on the opening weekend. I believe that our four programs are the top in the country and we want to see where we are right away.”
Joining traditional powers Wake Forest, North Carolina and Iowa is Big Ten foe Michigan. Michigan ranked 19th nationally, is led by former Hawkeye Marcia Pankratz. Michigan claimed the 2001 National Championship.
Iowa’s three seniors, Beamesderfer, Dean and Jess Werley have been waiting to host the Challenge for their entire careers.
“It is really exciting to be hosting,” said Werley. “As a senior, it is our only year to host the tournament. It is exciting to compete against this level of play in this environment.”
“I am so excited,” added Dean. “Since our freshman year, Meg, Jess and I have all counted the years until we were hosting. We found out it was our senior year and it is definitely something we have been looking forward to for a while.”
The seniors all feel practices have been solid leading up to the Challenge.
“Practices have been really good,” said Dean. “Our intensity is up, everyone is learning a lot, and the positive atmosphere is awesome.”
Iowa graduated eight seniors from last season’s Final Four team. This year the freshmen will be counted on to contribute right away. So far, so good.
“I am really impressed with the freshmen,” said Beamesderfer. “I think they are adapting really well. The returnees are adapting to teaching the newcomers our traditions and our goals for the season.”
“Our freshmen have been unbelievable,” added Griesbaum. “They have been a surprise. I had a lot of confidence in them coming in. So far, there have been a lot of great surprises.”