Aug. 9, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa field hockey team held its first official practice Thursday at Grant Field. Despite clouds covering the field, an excitement was in the air, as the Hawkeyes eye their 22nd NCAA appearance.
"It's awesome to be back at practice," said senior Jessica Barnett. "It's really good to have the full squad here and be practicing on Grant."
"I thought everyone came out with a really good energy, an open mind, were coachable and had positive attitudes," said senior Kathleen McGraw. "It was a good first start. Some of our skills looked a little rusty, but I think that will come pretty fast."
Head coach Tracey Griesbaum welcomes back 15 letterwinners, including nine starters, from a 2011 team that advanced to the NCAA tournament and finished the season ranked 12th in the NFHCA poll. The depth and talent of the 21 member roster (six seniors, five juniors, five sophomores, five freshmen) was obvious at the first day of practice.
"We have more depth than we've had since I've been head coach here," said Griesbaum. "That's a really good thing, but we have to make sure as a coaching staff we stay organized, have our depth and not send out too many options to them. We have to take in information these first couple days and then start to solidly move toward game plans and tactics."
The depth was most evident to the Hawkeye head coach during team drills.
"Doing penalty corners, we literally have five people that can hit the ball," said Griesbaum. "Most teams heading into the season are hoping that they have three, and we have five. We have depth at every position."
The six seniors, Barnett, McGraw, Kelsey Boyce, Sarah Drake, Geena Lesiak and Sarah Pedrick, who entered their final preseason on Monday have already identified how their roles have changed on the team.
"You have more of a responsibility," said McGraw. "A lot of it is on your shoulders to make sure that you're passing along all of the knowledge you have in the last couple months before you leave the program. It's your last opportunity, so make the most of it. It's kind of an unreal feeling to be honest."
"It's different in the fact that I'm the person or my class is the people who are looked to for examples and experience," said Lesiak. "That's what I'm looking forward to most, is being able to share what I've gone through the last three years with everyone else below me. "
The seniors mindset doesn't surprise their head coach.
"They know this is their last go around. It happens for every student-athlete at the collegiate level," said Griesbaum. "Your senior year you're more mature, you understand the system and you take a little more ownership. With that, they have a ton of pride. They want to make their mark. I know it's a team thing, but I think it means a little bit more when you know it's your senior year. That's what you're going to remember."
Iowa will hold its Black & Gold intrasquad scrimmage on Wednesday, Aug. 15, at Grant Field. The Hawkeyes will host media day immediately following the scrimmage. The squad opens its regular season Aug. 25 in Winston-Salem, N.C., against Wake Forest as part of the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge.