Feb. 29, 2008
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- With all the snow and ice that has blanketed the area recently, you couldn't blame University of Iowa field hockey MVP Lauren Pfeiffer for wanting to get away for awhile.
Pfeiffer will have that opportunity when she travels with the United States Under-21 field hockey team to Argentina for three games against the Argentinean national team March 9-15. Pfeiffer is no stranger to all-star teams. She was a member of the national U-21 team in both 2006 and 2007 and is joined by Hawkeye teammates Meghan Beamesderfer, Caroline Blaum, Roz Ellis, Caitlin McCurdy and Kadi Sickel on the High Performance Training Center (HPTC) Midwest Region team.
"It's fun to be a part of a different team and have to adjust to new styles and new coaching," Pfeiffer said. "You become a better player because you have to learn quickly and you need to adjust and be versatile in order to play with different teammates."
The U-21 traveling team is coached by Tracey Fuchs, associate head coach at the University of Michigan. Fuchs might still be seeing Hawkeyes in her sleep. After the Wolverines defeated Iowa 3-2 in overtime Sept. 21 in Ann Arbor, the Hawkeyes more than avenged the setback with a 4-1 decision in the finals of the Big Ten Championship on Nov. 4 in Columbus, Ohio.
"Making the traveling team is a more formalized recognition that you are one of the top 16 players in that age group in the country," UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum said. "This is very good for our program. We always allow and encourage our players to use Iowa as a platform for them."
It has been an outstanding postseason for Pfeiffer. The junior midfielder from Mount Laurel, N.J., was named first team All-American by WomensFieldHockey.com, second team All-American by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA), Regional All-American by the NFHCA and first team All-Big Ten. She is a two-time All-Big Ten Tournament team selection and the Big Ten Tournament MVP in 2006. Last season the Hawkeyes finished 17-4 overall, won the conference tournament for the second consecutive season and advanced to the NCAA National Tournament. Pfeiffer led Iowa with 15 goals, 38 points and 93 shots. She was second on the team with eight assists. The cherry on top came Feb. 16 when Pfeiffer was named team Most Valuable Player.
"It was a real honor, especially because it was chosen by my teammates," Pfeiffer said. "That means a lot more coming from them and to know that they recognized me. I'm not going to walk away now because I already got my award. It is still just an award, but at the same time it made me feel good that my teammates think highly of me."
Griesbaum endorses the team's selection of Pfeiffer as MVP.
"Making the traveling team is a more formalized recognition that you are one of the top 16 players in that age group in the country. This is very good for our program. We always allow and encourage our players to use Iowa as a platform for them."
UI head coach
"She is dedicated, disciplined and very self-motivated," Griesbaum said. "She is fundamentally sound and has the best basic skills of anyone on the team. Her strength and power is unbelievable. She has it all, really. Lauren takes her academics very seriously and she has the personality to take it upon herself to make improvements in her game."
During Pfeiffer's first three seasons, the Hawkeyes have compiled a record of 39-21 with two league tournament championships and two trips to the NCAA Tournament. Both national tournaments ended in heart-breaking fashion. The Hawkeyes lost in 2006 to Virginia 1-0 and fell by the same score last season to Boston University.
"We ended our season earlier than we should have and now we're ready to get back out there," Pfeiffer said. "A bunch of us have had a taste of the NCAA Tournament twice and we lost first round. We do not want to do that again and we don't plan on doing that again."
There are eight seniors-to-be on the Hawkeye roster -- Pfeiffer, Blaum, Ellis, McCurdy, Lindsey Duffy, Melissa Helsel, Lissa Munley and Katie Naughton. That group will be expected to groom an outstanding incoming freshman class that includes Pennsylvannia high school standouts Tori Garifo, Leslie Pyle, Nicole Fiorilla, Lauren Whalen and Rebecca Spengler.
"All the seniors have the same mindset and we know this is going to be our last chance," Pfeiffer said. "We're a very unique team and we love our traditions and all of our values that we need to pass down to (the first-year student-athletes). It's a process and they're not going to get everything right away, but we're going to be there for them all the time and help them along the way."
It was a highlight-reel season for the Hawkeyes in 2007, but the moment that sticks out most in Pfeiffer's mind are the final seconds of a 2-1 overtime victory against Indiana on Sept. 30 at Grant Field.
"Jess (Werley) won the ball on the left side of the field and she beat the goalkeeper with one pass to me and I scored," said Pfeiffer, referring to one of her four game-winning goals. "I just remember Jess doing that like it was so easy."
Pfeiffer was named Big Ten Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 8 after leading the Hawkeyes to a 5-1 victory against Northwestern and a 3-1 win against Providence. She scored two goals against Northwestern and had a goal and an assist against Providence.
Pfeiffer and the majority of her teammates have now enjoyed multiple trips to the national postseason stage. The goal now is for a happy ending in November, 2008.
"We want to win the national tournament," Pfeiffer said. "Right now is our time to train for it and I think we're doing a very good job of that. We've been preparing since the end of November and we're ready to get a lot further than we did last year."
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