Aug. 18, 2005
When Tracey Griesbaum's nationally ranked field hockey team moves onto the new Grant Field sometime next week that new facility won't be the only addition to their team. In addition to new state-of-the-art facilities, they will also have a deep and talented recruiting class of eight new faces on the roster.
A year ago the field hockey team - a team which made it to the sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament - boasted five senior starters, two of which were All-Americans in Barb Weinberg and Sarah Dawson. Griesbaum will miss several things about the senior group with a very young team coming into next season.
"The seniors were very much on the same page. They had similar goals, but at the same time offered their very own individual flair," she said. "We will miss most their leadership, skill level, and their ability to execute."
With eight returning players, and eight incoming freshmen, Griesbaum is looking several places to find solid leadership on her 2005 squad. "We want everybody--whether they're freshmen or seniors to be a leader everyday. But we will most look for our players who have the most on-field experience," said Griesbaum.
"The seniors were very much on the same page. They had similar goals, but at the same time offered their very own individual flair. We will miss most their leadership, skill level, and their ability to execute."
Tracey Griesbaum, UI field hockey coach
Griesbaum's team is young, but it seems that the former goaltender is being modest about her team's experience. Last year's national field hockey coach of the year might not have as much difficulty as she thinks finding leadership considering the fact that four of her players for the 2005 squad were selected to represent the United States National Under-21 team this summer. These players include Junior Heather Schnepf, sophomores Caroline Blaum and Kadi Sickel, and incoming freshmen Lauren Pfeiffer.
Heather Schnepf, the most decorated of the returning players on defense, played in 17 of the team's 21 games last year, and was also selected to the Junior World Cup in Santiago Chile.
Last year, Sarah Dawson led the Hawkeyes in all offensive categories, including 12 goals, ten assists, and 34 points. Griesbaum will now turn to a few of her younger offensive players to fill the gap.
The Hawkeyes will return a big offensive threat in Caroline Blaum, who scored six goals, had two assists, and 14 total points a year ago. She will be one of the forwards the team will rely on to attack.
"She has great stick skills and even better shot making ability," her coach remarked.
Kadi Sickel, who Griesbaum describes as "very athletic and fast.... a nuisance on the defensive end in a good way...", also poured in five goals on nine attempts for the best shot percentage on the team. Both of these returning players played in all 21 games of Iowa's 13-8 Big Ten championship season.
One of the biggest holes to fill for the Hawkeyes will be at the goaltender position. With all-American Barb Weinberg gone, Griesbaum will turn to three incoming freshmen -- Lissa Munley, Melissa Helsel, and Megan Heise.
"One of our biggest themes right now is that some of the positions are wide open. Any three of these freshmen could fill the spot, and we have a small team so it will be competitive. This is the position that needs to be solidified right away," said Griesbaum.
Even after losing such a remarkable senior class, Iowa's head coach still believes that this team has a few better attributes than last year's unit. "I think we are going to be a faster, quicker team with balance. We have strengths in attacking and defense" Griesbaum said, adding that upwards of four freshmen are vying for starting spots.
With such a big recruiting class, Griesbaum believes it important that the 2005 Hawkeyes mature as the season progresses.
"We lost five starters, we need to literally take a day at a time, because we are going to have some growing pains early on, but we have to stay consistent, and improve on a consistent basis," Griesbaum said.
Although her team is young, Griesbaum still has important goals. "Half of our team is going to be freshmen, but one of our main goals is to be a better team in November than we are in August",
The Hawkeyes will open the season with the Big Ten/ACC Challenge the last weekend in August. The field includes Iowa along with North Carolina, Wake Forest, and Michigan. It will be a stiff test for the Hawkeyes, considering all three of the teams claimed a spot among the nation's Elite 8 a year ago with Wake Forest taking the NCAA Championship.
"The ACC and the Big Ten are considered unofficially the top two conferences for field hockey. This will be a great challenge for our young team", said Griesbaum.
This is the fourth year of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge,and it is Iowa's turn to host the teams. This year, the UI will have a new facility to flaunt during the weekend.
"It's going to be great to show the new facilities during such a competitive weekend, and we will even bring in a few recruits so they can see how special field hockey is," Griesbaum said proudly.