Aug 19, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — With 22 NCAA Tournaments on its all-time resume, the University of Iowa field hockey program is in search for No. 23 in 2013… and more.
“We have not put it in ink yet, but I think our pencils have said that we want to make it back to the NCAA Tournament, and we want to be playing for a Big Ten Championship,” UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum said Monday at the team’s media day. “Obviously, the regular season championship is our first opportunity to get that, so we are taking it one game at a time in our conference.
“We have a lot of work to do that is not going to come easy, it never does. There is so much parody in our sport and it really can be anyone’s game on any day, so we have to get serious and buckle down. It’s not just going to happen; we have to make it happen.”
The Hawkeyes boast an experienced returning cast with seven starters back from last year’s squad that went 14-7 overall and 4-2 in Big Ten play, tying for second in the league.
Iowa lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season. This year, the Hawkeyes want more.
“Last year, we had a good season, but when we took a step back, we felt we could have all done a little bit more, so this year our goal is to make it better,” said Niki Schultheis, one of six Hawkeye seniors. “We want to win the Big Ten championship. We want to go further in the NCAA tournament. We want to make it better.”
Iowa will look to replace four mainstays in the lineup in Jessica Barnett, Sarah Drake, Geena Lesiak, and Kathleen McGraw.
“It’s going to happen every year,” said Griesbaum. “We work so hard to develop the athletes over four years and then you have to say goodbye. Losing four consistent starters who really started for their whole career is a big loss, but I really think the returners starting in the spring season knew that and they knew they had an obligation to step up their game. The improvement top to bottom from our returners has been outstanding and then we have a phenomenal freshman class.”
The Hawkeyes began practice last week and are off to a good start to the season.
“Practice has been going really well,” said sophomore Natalie Cafone. “We are really looking forward to our first scrimmage, working hard every day, and taking it one day at a time.”
The Hawkeyes will travel to Ball State on Thursday for an exhibition (2 p.m., CT) before hosting Missouri State on Sunday, Aug. 25, at noon in their final exhibition.
Iowa opens the regular season in Easton, Pa., facing Bucknell (Aug. 30) and Lafayette College (Sept. 1). The Hawkeyes open their home slate, Sept. 7-8, hosting the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Iowa faces Wake Forest on Sept. 7 at 11:30 a.m. (CT) and North Carolina on Sept. 8 at 11:30 a.m. (CT).