Aug. 19, 2011
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa field hockey program spent the last 288 days thinking and rehashing the 2010 season before stepping on to the turf at Grant Field for its 2011 exhibition opener. Following a 2-1 victory over Louisville, the Hawkeyes are officially moving forward.
“The past nine months have been the longest for me in my life,” said UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum at the team’s media day Friday. “The returners said it has been a long, but great nine months, but they were very diligent. Starting in November in 2010, they went after it. We’ve come a long ways, but still have a ways to go.”
The Hawkeyes are coming off a 3-14 overall record and an 0-6 mark in the Big Ten Conference in 2010. It was an uncharacteristic season for a UI program that has gone to the NCAA Tournament 20 times in its history and advanced to 11 NCAA Final Fours.
“It’s a tough lesson to learn, but I think we learned it the hard way,” said Griesbaum. “Every player realized it’s not going to come easy. It just doesn’t happen when you put your turf shoes and uniform on, so they’ve bought into it.
“They bought into the work and the diligence that’s needed. Every returning player came back at a very different level.”
“We’ve been waiting nine months to get back on Grant Field,” said junior Jessica Barnett, an NFHCA West All-Region second team selection in 2010. “Last year was a bit rough. We’ve been preparing all summer, working, pushing our skills and really doing everything we can to get to the NCAA Tournament.”
Griesbaum welcomes back nine starters and 14 letterwinners to her 2011 roster. Add to that a class of five newcomers and the 12th year head coach has more depth at her disposal.
“We only lost two seniors, and our commitment was if we come back with everyone at a better place, it will put us in a better position,” said Griesbaum. “Every player feels like they have a viable shot to start, and if they’re not starting, to get into the game. If our freshmen aren’t starting, they know what the standard is.”
The Hawkeyes’ championship goals aren’t going to change. They are going to strive to win Big Ten titles and compete nationally in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s going to take a mindset that every year we have work to do,” said Griesbaum on trying to get the team back to the NCAAs. “We have to enjoy getting after it, and it can’t become a burden to us. Every day, the expectations are going to be the same or higher. We can’t do it in one giant step.
“We’re going to be calm and make sure we’re incrementally taking care of what we need to. Every day we’re asking the players — teammate to your right, teammate to your left — hold them accountable. Hold yourself accountable first and then hold everyone around you accountable.”
Step one of moving forward is having a solid preseason of training. Step two is continuing that work rate and showing the self-discipline to continue to want to succeed.
“Those are the two things we strive to uphold every day in practice and our coaching staff is doing everything they can to help us,” said junior Sarah Drake. “As a team, we want it, and we’re going to do what it takes to get there.”
The Hawkeyes open the regular season in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge against Wake Forest on Aug. 27 in Ann Arbor, Mich.