Aug. 23, 2011
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By MICHELE DANNO
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Seniority on the University of Iowa field hockey team is about quality — not quantity — in 2011.
As the squad’s lone senior, Becca Spengler has had to step into the key leadership role by herself — something UI head coach Tracy Griesbaum said she has been fully prepared for as a three-year captain.
“Becca’s been a leader on this team for a while, and she’s taken small steps every year,” Griesbaum said. “She didn’t have to do a ton more this year because she’s already a phenomenal leader. We wanted her to just focus on her game, because she just takes such pride in leadership; it’s not a challenge to her. It just comes naturally.”
And leadership isn’t the only skill Spengler possesses. Griesbaum also touted her ability to learn quickly and pass her knowledge and understanding to younger teammates.
“She has a great understanding of our tactics, and if it’s something new we’re presenting to the team, she’s always the first one to get it,” Griesbaum said. “Then, it just kind of trickles down to her teammates, and she helps them grasp it, too. She’s very intelligent.”
This characteristic makes Spengler an asset to her youthful counterparts, especially those who play one of her two positions. With experience in both forward and midfield, Spengler’s versatility inspires the underclassmen who are still finding their niche on the squad.
Hawkeye freshman forward Sara Watro said having Spengler as a guide has made her transition to Division I field hockey more comfortable.
“She has a great understanding of our tactics, and if it’s something new we’re presenting to the team, she’s always the first one to get it. Then, it just kind of trickles down to her teammates, and she helps them grasp it, too. She’s very intelligent.”
UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum
on Becca Spengler
“She really took me under her wing as who I want to be as I grow as a player, and she is a real leader for everyone on the team,” Watro said. “She leads by example, but she’s verbal, too. She’ll tell you if you need to move left or move right, but she does it in an encouraging way.”
Griesbaum noted this ability to balance toughness and compassion make Spengler a well-respected leader, but she is definitely not a pushover.
“Becca has a lot of heart and pride behind what she does,” Griesbaum said. “She’s a taskmaster who really wants tasks to be done and for people to follow directions so that the team can focus on their performance. She says it like it is and doesn’t really mince a lot of words, but the team knows she’s in its corner, too. However she manages to balance that, she does it really well.”
Spengler strives to make Griesbaum’s job easier — calling herself the “liaison” between the coaches and a young team. However, she doesn’t take sole responsibility, and she credits her two junior team captains Kathleen McGraw and Jessica Barnett for helping facilitate communication between the youngsters and the three coaches.
Eager to get her senior season underway, Spengler said she and her fellow veterans are using last season as motivation for improvement. And after only three wins in 2010, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
“Last year, we didn’t have a successful year, and we want to turn it around,” Spengler said. “We have a standard we want to uphold, and I think that’s a huge goal for this team and personally.”
The Hawkeyes successfully opened their season with a 2-1 exhibition win over Louisville on Aug. 19. They will be back in action Aug. 27 against Wake Forest in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in Ann Arbor, Mich.