Tradition Meets Tradition

Aug. 27, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.


IOWA CITY, Iowa — Twelve-straight. That marks the number of New Jersey state championships Eastern Regional High School has won in successive fashion. There have been numerous contributors to the program over the years, perhaps none bigger than those who have gone on to play at the University of Iowa.

Four current Hawkeyes, junior Geena Lesiak, sophomore Kelsey Mitchell and freshmen Corinne Allen and Brittany Evangelisti, hail from Eastern Regional. All played intricate roles in helping the New Jersey High School claim 12 straight titles, a state record.

Lesiak, who played with Mitchell for three years at Eastern Regional, and Allen and Evangelisti for two, was an NFHCA National High School All-American and a two-year team captain at Eastern Regional.

Mitchell was named the New Jersey State Player of the Year twice and was a two-time NFHCA High School All-American. She holds the record for career goals in the state of New Jersey (171).

Allen and Evangelisti were both seniors on last year’s Eastern Regional team that claimed the 12th consecutive title. Allen, whose jersey is retired by the school, was Eastern Regional’s team MVP in 2010 and was named an NFHCA National High School All-American. Evangelisti served as the school’s team captain as a senior, en route to player of the year honors in New Jersey.

“Twelve straight titles now, it is a lot like this program,” said Lesiak about Eastern Regional and the UI field hockey program. “It is about tradition and carrying on what the years before you have accomplished. I think with that being a main point at Eastern, coming here it was a good transition because they had the same morals — carrying on tradition.”

The tradition at Iowa speaks for itself — 11 NCAA Final Fours, 20 NCAA Tournament appearances, 1986 national championship, 12 conference championships. The list goes on and on.

In New Jersey, there is a long history of high school field hockey standouts choosing to wear the Black and Gold and become a part of the Hawkeye tradition.

“Not only is there a number of Eastern graduates who have come through the program, but a lot of south Jersey people like Liz Tchou, Amy Fowler, Sarah and Natalie Dawson, Heather Schnepf,” said Mitchell. “So there has been a pipeline of a lot of south Jersey people who have come here and it is cool, because when they find out you are going to Iowa, they are really supportive.

“There is a lot of support back home. People follow us because they know what goes on in Iowa City.”

At times, the New Jersey natives have to explain why they are leaving for Iowa.

“They just ask why Iowa?” said Evangelisti. “We tell them it is awesome. Iowa has a great field hockey team, a great program and great academics. Iowa has everything to offer.”

“Everyone here makes you feel welcome and comfortable,” said Allen.

Other times it is easier to explain the move to Iowa, due to the long tradition of both Iowa field hockey and the New Jersey and East Coast natives heading west to Iowa City.

“The people that know about collegiate field hockey, understand why you would go to Iowa,” said Lesiak. “It is a Big Ten school, it has a lot of tradition, and it has always been a great program.

“Iowa is a really good school and it is a great team, so I think Cori (Allen) and Brittany (Evangelisti) made a great decision.”

Iowa opens the regular season this weekend with the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge in Ann Arbor, Mich. The Hawkeyes will face 11th-ranked Wake Forest today at 1:30 p.m. before battling No. 2 North Carolina Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Both times are Central.