Aug. 20, 2015
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By SAM STYCH
IOWA CITY, Iowa — For the University of Iowa field hockey team, youth presents an opportunity for growth.
“We will be able to get a lot of our players a lot of experience,” said second-year head coach Lisa Cellucci. “Our depth is quite small, so a lot of our student-athletes will have the opportunity to get some playing time this season.”
The 2015 roster is comprised of 19 student-athletes — 12 of whom are underclassman. With All-American Natalie Cafone sidelined because of injury, Iowa looks to juniors Stephanie Norlander, Chandler Ackers, and Alexandra Pecora to take on a leadership role. All three were named to the 2015 Big Ten Players to Watch List earlier today.
“We’re not conceding the season just because Natalie is not available or that we have a young team,” said Cellucci. “Our character is going to be tested every week.
“Stephanie Norlander is absolutely going to be our go-to player on the field. She will be stepping up into a big leadership role and be called upon to play a couple of positions.” Norlander, a 2014 NFHCA All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honoree, is ready to embrace her new leadership role.
“I know I have a bigger role on the leadership side of things, but I’m excited about it,” said Norlander. “I’m ready to take it out on the field.”
The Vancouver, Canada, native, spent her summer playing for the Canadian National Field Hockey Team at the World League 3 semifinals in Valencia, Spain, and the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto, Canada. She helped the Canadians to a third-place, bronze medal finish in the Pan Am games. Norlander recorded three goals in Canada’s 12-1 opening round win against the Dominican Republic.
“The field hockey experience I had over the summer helped my game so much,” Norlander added. “My ball control, my awareness on the field, and my overall knowledge of the game improved over the summer.”
Ackers and Pecora also had productive summers, competing in the USA Women’s National Championship at the USA Training Center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Sophomores Melissa Progar and Taylor Omweg were also selected to compete in the event.
Although the team is young, Ackers has already seen some of the benefits youth brings.
“Our openness to learn has been awesome,” said Ackers. “We are just going out there and taking everything in strides. We are taking everything that the coaches are saying and just doing it. That has really helped us progress this preseason.”
The Hawkeyes begin their 2015 campaign with a matchup against Wake Forest on Aug. 29 at the ACC/Big Ten Tournament in Ann Arbor, Michigan.