April 18, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The spring season is time for the University of Iowa field hockey team to develop an identity.
With the graduation of five seniors, including two-year co-captains Jessica Barnett and Kathleen McGraw, from the 2012 NCAA Tournament squad, the Hawkeyes are using the spring to carve out new leadership roles.
"In the beginning (of spring practice), we had a lot of growing pains," said UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum. "It was everyone trying to figure out what their role was. Everyone wanted to be in the forefront, and it took us awhile because they're trying to form their own identity.
"Right away, we realized we're losing some great competitors in our senior class, who are highly skilled players and competitive athletes. The thing we noticed most was the grit that Jessica Barnett, Sarah Drake, Sarah Pedrick and Kathleen McGraw brought every day to practice."
"They got a taste of winning again with a new group. They were like, 'We can do this without JB (Barnett) and Merty (McGraw), and this is exciting.' Competition brings out good stuff in people."
UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum
Before the first spring competition, Griesbaum said the Hawkeyes were in a holding pattern, trying to figure out how they were going to look in a competition setting. During the second weekend of competitive play, the team came together to claim the title at Louisville.
Playing in a 7-vs.-7 tournament, Iowa opened with ties against Michigan (2-2) and Michigan State (1-1) before downing Ball State (6-0) and Central Michigan (3-1) to advance to the semifinals. The team followed with a 3-1 victory over Michigan State before downing Louisville, 2-1, in the finals on a last-second goal off a corner by Dani Hemeon.
"On Sunday at Louisville, I gave the team a lot of credit," said Griesbaum. "It was a long day -- we were at the field for eight hours -- and it was a mental thing. The reason we won is because half the teams checked out at 1 p.m. That's a sign of leadership as well as personal and team pride.
"You could tell we were there to win. We didn't approach it like it was just a spring tournament, and that's what got us over the edge."
Griesbaum says the spring success was important for the team's psyche to learn to win.
"They got a taste of winning again with a new group," said Griesbaum. "They were like, 'We can do this without JB (Barnett) and Merty (McGraw), and this is exciting.' Competition brings out good stuff in people."
"They play at the highest level and handle themselves like elite athletes all the time," she said. "They're great role models and outstanding students. Both those two, on and off the field, have risen to the top."
The Hawkeyes will have an opportunity to compete at home Saturday on Grant Field, hosting Northwestern, Missouri State, Saint Louis and an Iowa Alumni Team.
"There is always an interesting energy every year during this competition with the alumni coming back," said Griesbaum. "(Last year's) seniors have graduated to the alumni team, so it will make for a fun weekend."