24: Pergine avoids the `Y' words

Sept. 30, 2010

Worth Watching: S. Pergine

Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Friday, Aug. 13, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2010-11 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — When referring to the 2010 University of Iowa field hockey season, be cautious when using the “Y” word around Hawkeye senior Sarah Pergine.

The “Y” word can signify either youthful or young and Pergine — one of three upperclassmen and one of two seniors — is helping turn the page after an uncharacteristic 9-10 record a year ago.

“A lot of the papers would say we were a young team and yes, you could say that,” says Pergine, a native of Collegeville, Pa. “But I got sick of hearing it. We really need to come out this year strong and prove that (2009) was a learning season.”

The Hawkeyes have won two of their last three games and own a record of 3-6 heading into Saturday’s match at Penn State.

Pergine, a three-year starter in midfield, along with Chelsea Miller, are the Hawkeye seniors, while Becca Spengler is the lone junior. According to UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum, there could be nine freshmen or sophomores on the field at the same time this fall. Griesbaum enters her 11th season with a career record of 124-79 and under her guidance, the Hawkeyes have won 10 of their last 11 Big Ten Tournament games.

“Internally I try not to say the words young or youthful,” Griesbaum says. “Is it an excuse? No, it is what it is. We’re going to go out there and play and not even think about that.”

Pergine is comfortable accepting an expanded leadership role, which is something that couldn’t be said when she arrived on campus in 2007.

“The past three years have been a progression,” Pergine says. “Freshman year you’re kind of scared and someone out there just trying to find your footing. I’ve gone through social, outside and personal issues that have made it rough, but I stepped up and became a leader who is able to communicate. As a freshman I would have never seen that happening — I was really quiet and would never say anything.”

“The past three years have been a progression. Freshman year you’re kind of scared and someone out there just trying to find your footing. I’ve gone through social, outside and personal issues that have made it rough, but I stepped up and became a leader who is able to communicate. As a freshman I would have never seen that happening — I was really quiet and would never say anything.”
UI senior Sarah Pergine

During her career, Pergine has started 45 of 66 games, scoring 12 goals with 25 assists and 49 points. Her goal in the 51st minute at Michigan State on Nov. 17, 2008 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament gave the UI a 1-0 victory and sent the Hawkeyes to the Final Four. She has a goal and an assist this season.

“Going to the Final Four was an amazing experience,” Pergine says. “I ended up scoring the winning goal (against Michigan State) — I don’t know how it happened; it touched my stick and I ended up crying on the field and we still had a lot of the game to play.”

Remembers Griesbaum: “Sarah scores on a redirect, a tip,” Griesbaum says. “She was in the right place at the right time, got a subtle touch on the ball that went right past the goal keeper and that was it. Her goal was the one that got us to the Final Four.”

That victory allowed the Hawkeyes to face top-ranked Maryland four days later in the national semifinals. Iowa fell to the eventual champion 2-1 in double overtime and ended the season 18-5.

Pergine has played for two Big Ten Conference Tournament champions and two NCAA national qualifiers. With Pergine in the lineup, the Hawkeyes have gone 44-19 overall, 7-1 in the Big Ten Tournament. A team captain, she is confident that this year’s team will be contending for some lofty accolades.

“There are goals you have every season — Big Ten champs, tournament champs, NCAA’s — and they should be there,” Pergine says. “I feel confident because we had a strong last couple weeks of our season (winning five of the final seven games with victories over two nationally ranked teams). We’re pushing each other every day and everyone has made a good effort toward making themselves better and making our team better.”

Griesbaum is going to rely on Pergine more than she has during any previous season. That happens when you’re an experienced captain roaming the midfield.

“Sarah will have a bigger role than I think she thinks she has right now,” Griesbaum says. “I’m going to be in her ear and by her side more than I have had to the last couple years. She’s going to be asked to play 70 minutes and dominate and I’m looking forward to it because I think she’s ready. She wants that.”

As a second-grade student, Pergine penned for class that she wanted to play field hockey in college; upon entering high school, the recruiting letters began arriving. The UI made Pergine’s final cut, as did Cornell University.

“All my friends went to Penn State or Ursinus College,” Pergine says. “I wanted a different experience. Through the recruiting process with Iowa I felt I wouldn’t get homesick because the girls seemed like a tight-knit group and the coaches were like moms out here. One night at dinner I was talking with my parents and I decided I was going to Iowa. It was about where I would be happy; the team and the coaches drew me here.”

Pergine is pursuing a double major in sociology and communication studies. She plans to attend graduate school and eventually become a higher education or academic counselor. In the right situation, coaching field hockey might also be in the plan.

“I don’t see myself not being active. It’s not something that is going to happen,” Pergine says. “I don’t want to go to work every day and then not do anything else besides that.”

As a youngster Pergine participated in softball and basketball to complement lacrosse and field hockey — the two sports she played at Perkiomen Valley (Pa.) High School. Her leadership at the UI exceeds the athletic venue; Pergine is chair of the 2010-11 executive board for Iowa Student Athlete Advisory Committee (ISAAC) and assists with summer youth programs in Cedar Rapids.

Those are some examples why Griesbaum refers to Pergine as the total package.

“Sarah rose to the challenge in the spring and finalized some of her leadership qualities and put the finishing touches on what I always thought she was capable of,” Griesbaum says. “She’s an all-around quality person. She is committed to academics and athletics, so she has the whole package.”