Aug. 29, 2009
by Tom Garland
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- As sophomore goalkeeper Tori Garifo walked off Grant Field on Saturday, she wore a smile from ear to ear. Her family, visiting from Pennsylvania, were cheering and screaming loudly behind her in the stands.
Surprisingly, Garifo and the University of Iowa had just lost their season-opener. The ninth-ranked Hawkeye field hockey team fell to No. 2 Wake Forest in a neck-and-neck bout, 3-2, just moments earlier on a sunny and cool Iowa afternoon.
For Garifo, that was obsolete. She had won a battle all her own.
Lissa Munley, last year's senior goalkeeper, was arguably one of the best at protecting the net in the Big Ten Conference, if not in the nation. The team has obviously made note of her absence, but they're ready to move forward. After her baptism by fire against one of the toughest teams the Hawkeyes will see all season, Garifo is ready to move forward as well.
"Lissa was obviously an incredible player. I feel like with my lack of playing experience, it has been rather difficult, but after today I've found that I can do it and I can step up and be there for my teammates," Garifo said.
Despite Garifo's confidence and stellar performance -- holding the No. 2 team in the nation to only three goals and recording six saves -- there are some skeptics that are calling this a rebuilding year for the Hawkeyes. However, ask any UI player or coach and they will tell you that couldn't be any farther from the truth.
"I don't feel that's the case with this team," UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum said. "There's been some great surprises, literally, top-to-bottom in our lineup."
"I don't think coach Griesbaum is treating this as a rebuilding year at all," Garifo said, "We have the same intensity at practice. Sure, there are some younger girls, but the expectations haven't changed."
After coming off three back-to-back Big Ten tournament championships, the expectations for this young team couldn't be any higher. But for now, Garifo and her fellow `developing' teammates are just happy to be a part of the game.
"It was fun," said Garifo, moments after the Wake Forest game. "My friends are here and my grandparents flew all the way in to see me. Today was just the biggest rush I've had in my whole life. I loved it."
Even after such a tough loss, who can blame Garifo for smiling?