Aug. 15, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Following a 15 win season and an NCAA tournament bid, the University of Iowa field hockey team is looking for more.
“The expectations the returnees have before we even set our team goals for this season are higher and better than last year,” said UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum at the team’s media day following the Black and Gold intrasquad scrimmage. “It (the NCAAs) gave them a taste. They’re hungry and have a fire in their eye. The seniors want to make a statement this season.”
The Hawkeyes boast an experienced returning cast with nine starters back from a team that went 15-5 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play. Iowa has four players — Jessica Barnett, Sarah Drake, Geena Lesiak and Kathleen McGraw — that will be four-year starters.
“Last year was a great success, and a great experience,” said Barnett, a third team NFHCA All-American in 2011. “We gained a lot from it, and are looking to build off of it. It puts us in an advantageous situation having as many returnees as we do, so we’re looking to keep building on that every day.”
“We want more. We want to get back to the NCAA tournament and go further than we did last year. That’s the main goal. Getting better and working toward that is going to be the focus.”
Senior goalkeeper Kathleen McGraw
Barnett and McGraw bring back a solid leadership foundation for the Hawkeyes. The pair served as team captains in 2011, and are in their second consecutive season in the capacity.
“It’s helpful that we’re able to bring back that perspective and things that we learned last year because we were already in that leadership role,” said McGraw, a 2011 second team All-Big Ten selection. “It’s only going to help things go smoother, help us reach our goals faster and reach an even higher level.”
Barnett says while she and McGraw are the team captains, the six seniors on the roster all display leadership qualities.
“We’ve all learned from last year,” said Barnett. “Having six of us in a class sets the tone for the underclassmen. We’ve all taken a part of it (leadership), it’s not just one or two of us. It’s the whole class leading, it’s a unified thing.”
“With Merty (McGraw) and JB, they’ve been three-year starters, and they have high standards for themselves in athletics,” said Griesbaum. “To have them in leadership roles and have this culmination, it means a lot to this team.”
Griesbaum said the Hawkeyes first competition was “positive” and she liked what she saw out of her 2012 squad.
“We have a lot of versatility this year, and we displayed that today,” said Griesbaum, who is entering her 13th season as head coach of the Hawkeyes. “We have people that can play more than one line and are very comfortable playing both sides of the field.
“We’ve been practicing for six days, and I saw some different emotion and a different way of handing communication, a different way of responding. That was beneficial to me to see how the team is going to handle adversity.”
McGraw says the team still has room for growth before this weekend’s exhibition game at Northwestern. It will be a process for the team to achieve its goals.
“We want more,” said McGraw. “We want to get back to the NCAA tournament and go further than we did last year. That’s the main goal. Getting better and working toward that is going to be the focus.”
Iowa faces Northwestern on Saturday in Evanston beginning at 1 p.m. The Hawkeyes open the regular season with the Big Ten/ACC Challenge, facing North Carolina and Wake Forest in Winston Salem, N.C., on Aug. 25-26.