Aug. 22, 2010
Editor's note: The University of Iowa field hockey team held its annual media day Sunday following an exhibition match at Grant Field. With the preseason in the books, the Hawkeyes can now focus on the season-opening ACC/Big Ten Challenge in North Carolina.
By RICHIE ZAWISTOWSKI
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The 2010 University of Iowa Field Hockey team may be young, but it will get a chance to prove itself right off the bat.
Fans of Iowa field hockey will get to watch their team match up against two of the best in the nation, as the season kicks off Aug. 28 in Chapel Hill, N.C., with the Hawkeyes playing in the Big Ten/Acc Challenge.
Iowa will square off against Wake Forest and take on the hosting North Carolina Tar Heels the following day. Iowa is no stranger to the Big Ten/ACC challenge, as the Hawkeyes have been taking part in some ACC action for the last nine seasons.
"Obviously it's a great opportunity," said UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum. "I think right away it kind of lets you know where you are. We're playing the two best teams in the country in North Carolina and Wake Forest, so we're going to know right away where we stand. We're going to take our product down there, work game after game, and see what we have."
Iowa fields a young team with just three combined juniors and seniors on the team, so younger players will have to produce on the pitch.
Sophomore forward Sarah Drake has one year of experience under her belt as she started every game in 2009 for Iowa. Her eight goals and 17 total points tied her for third on the team, and she was also named Big Ten Freshman of the Week two times. While just a sophomore, Drake will play a key role in the upcoming Big Ten/ACC challenge for Iowa.
"For us it's the first and sometimes the biggest challenge of the year," said Drake. "A new squad is coming up with a lot of underclassmen getting a lot of playing time, but it's always great competition playing against two of the top teams of the nation. It's a really good chance for us to play against the top teams in the beginning and see where we need work and then get back to the drawing board."
"Obviously it's a great opportunity. I think right away it kind of lets you know where you are. We're playing the two best teams in the country in North Carolina and Wake Forest, so we're going to know right away where we stand. We're going to take our product down there, work game after game, and see what we have."
UI head coach
While Iowa may be a young team, the name of the game for the Hawkeyes is continued improvement day in and day out, and a positive attitude according to Griesbaum.
"Definitely an expectation every year is to get better on a daily basis, to bring a positive attitude, and just represent Iowa in a first class manner all the time," said Griesbaum. "A lot of it is going to come down to our work rate, and what we bring to the field. We don't have a ton of experience, so if they don't come ready willing to learn it's going to be road block after road block."
Drake echoed her coach's comments by stating that while the program at Iowa does a good job of being conscious of the seasonal goals, it is also very conscientious of making sure that they take it one game at a time and one practice at a time.
"Tomorrow we have practice, and that's what we're focusing on," said Drake.
Senior midfielder Sarah Pergine followed the team mantra and said that the season opener Aug 28 against Wake Forest is just "another game day" and that really "it's just taking it a game at a time."
While the Hawkeyes may be young, they will have Pergine to lean on as a leader. Pergine started all 19 games in 2009 and tied the team-high for assists in 2009, and was also a key contributor in during the Hawkeyes 2008 season that saw them win their third consecutive Big Ten Tournament champion and post an 18-5 record. However Iowa was ultimately eliminated in the national semifinal game against Maryland who went on to win the national championship.
While the 2009 season was not as successful as the year before, 2010 is a new year, and Griesbaum likes what she saw out of her team at the end of 2009, and what that could mean for the 2010 squad.
"I think last year our last three weekends of the season were our best hockey. So even though we didn't make it into the NCAA tournament with a pretty young group, we had a very, very strong last three weeks of the season. We peaked when we needed to peak, and I think that brought a lot of momentum into the spring, which led into summer training, which leads to where we are right now."
Right now is a young Hawkeye team eager to get better every day while taking it one game at a time.