May 10, 2016
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By SAM STYCH
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Since the University of Iowa field hockey team’s season ended last November, the team has been eager to get back on the field. The Hawkeyes recently wrapped up their spring season which presented another chance for the team to get better as a whole.
“We had a very productive spring,” said Lisa Cellucci, who will enter her third year as head coach of the Hawkeyes. “We identified key areas that we needed to improve upon individually and as team, and we attacked them everyday of the spring season. The progress was notable when we finally had a chance to compete during the month of April. We had numerous positive results.”
This past April was filled with field hockey for the Hawkeyes. Iowa competed in three different spring tournaments on three consecutive weekends, including its own tournament at Grant Field. Iowa competed in 11 games, facing Kent State, Missouri State, and four Big Ten schools, including Michigan, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Ohio State.
“Every game provided vital experience for the team, so it was great to get out and compete against others,” said soon to be sophomore Isabella Brown. “It gave us a chance to practice set plays in a game scene. Being a small squad, it was difficult to prepare for the pressure that opposing teams bring in practice. Seeing how we played against tough competition is one of the best motivators for summer, and it is clear that this team has great potential to preform at a high level.”
Mallory Lefkowitz, who was named Iowa’s MVP following a sophomore campaign that saw her score five goals and record four assists, knows just how vital the spring season is to the Hawkeyes’ success.
“The spring season is super important to the development and improvement of the team,” said Lefkowitz. “With small numbers, it gives individuals a lot of touches and a lot of time to focus in on what we need to work on to improve for the upcoming season. The spring gives us a lot of time to focus on our basic skills and fitness, while giving us a clear image of what we can continue to improve on for our fall season.”
While the entire team was excited to compete again this spring, no one was more eager than senior Natalie Cafone. A first team NFHCA All-American and the Big Ten’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2014, Cafone redshirted last season due to an injury.
“After sitting out all of last season, I was beyond excited to finally be able to play with my teammates again,” said Cafone, who is 10th on Iowa’s all-time goals scored list with 48. “Being able to compete with them this spring everyday at practice and in games was definitely what I was most excited for once I got cleared to return to play.”
Cafone will be one of four seniors on this year’s Hawkeye squad, joining Chandler Ackers, Alexandra Pecora, and Sophie Plasteras.
Cafone and Pecora were recently named captains for the 2016 season, an honor they both take a lot of pride in.
“Being a captain on this team is something that I have strived for since I was a freshman,” said Pecora, who has started 36 games and logged 2,508 minutes at goalkeeper for Iowa over the past two seasons. “It is such an honor that my teammates and coaches believe in me and my leadership abilities. Natalie and I have all the tools to lead this team to some great things this fall.”
Now that the Hawkeyes have a successful spring season under their belts, summer awaits. The Hawkeyes will have four months to sharpen their skills and get better as a team before the season gets underway in August.
“The team is excited to continue their training throughout the summer and they are committed to being even better come August,” said Cellucci. “The expectation is to have a physically and mentally tough team that holds each other accountable, displays great leadership, and lives by the Iowa Field Hockey standards everyday. If we can consistently possess all of that then our outcome goals this fall will take care of themselves.”