May 1, 2014
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 University of Iowa field hockey team celebrates a tradition of excellence.
The tradition speaks for itself -- 11 NCAA Final Fours, 22 NCAA Tournament appearances, 1986 national championship, 12 conference championships. The list goes on and on.
With no prep field hockey in the state of Iowa, this tradition is built by women who choose to coach and compete for the UI field hockey program from around the nation.
"Iowa high schools do not have field hockey," said former Hawkeye All-American Kerry Lessard, a native of Watertown, Mass. "When I was first asked to come on a recruiting trip 'I was like Iowa? Alright, sure.'
"Iowa high schools do not have field hockey. When I was first asked to come on a recruiting trip 'I was like Iowa? Alright, sure.' I knew the program so I took the time to come out here and right when I did I fell in love, and before I left I knew that I was going to be signing. I bought jerseys and a sweatshirt that I still own."
-- former Hawkeye All-American Kerry Lessard
"I knew the program so I took the time to come out here and right when I did I fell in love, and before I left I knew that I was going to be signing. I bought jerseys and a sweatshirt that I still own."
The community, coaches, staff, tradition and facilities attract recruits from all over the globe.
"As a student-athlete at the University of Iowa, they do a great job giving you the tools that you need to be successful," said former Iowa All-American Kathleen McGraw, who hails from Atherton, Calif. "The facilities and coaching staff are second to none. As soon as a left after I visited for the first time I knew I was coming here. They're great people, and I knew they were going to get the best out of me."
Iowa City becomes a home away from home. Last weekend, former Hawkeyes gathered from around the country to return for the annual alumni tournament.
"It is so nice to be back and see everyone that was such a big part of your life for four years," said McGraw. "Everyone goes their separate ways and then we all meet up at the alumni game. It is nice to see the tradition and everything; it is always a fun day."
For those that return, it is special to see the tradition grow that they helped establish.
"It's amazing to be back here with everyone," said former Iowa All-American Barb Weinberg, a Louisville native. "The tradition always stays the same. We graduated almost 10 years ago and it feels like we left yesterday. It's the same tradition that keeps carrying over.
"I love that they keep bringing in these people from all over the world so they can experience the tradition that we've had. We were all excited coming back here to play again, see the team and how they've progressed. It just keeps getting better and more fun each year."
From California to New Jersey, a bond is created by those that choose to play field hockey in the Hawkeye State.
"The overall family environment that we had here is top notch," said Lessard. "My dog's name is Hawkeye; it is a part of me forever. I live in Massachusetts now, I wear black and gold every Saturday no matter what time of the year it is. It is the overall feeling of family and being a part of something amazing that most people can never say they've had."