Sept. 26, 2012
Editor's note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 6, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2012-13 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Senior Jessica Barnett is all-everything for the University of Iowa field hockey team.
"She does it all, she walks the walk," said UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum. "She's a true competitor. She's a diehard and every day, she comes out to practice ready to compete. She'll do anything for this team."
That involves taking on a number of different roles -- that has been Barnett's modus operandi since arriving on campus in 2009. She has started from day one and has been immediately relied upon in all facets.
During her prep career at Handsworth Secondary in Vancouver, Canada, Barnett was a three-sport standout, excelling at field hockey, soccer, and basketball. It wasn't until her sophomore year that she knew field hockey was her calling.
"It wasn't until 10th grade that I felt very strongly about field hockey," she said. "As I was growing up, I always thought I would play soccer at a university, because it is what I loved most. As I got older, I realized that field hockey was where the best opportunity was for me."
She was right.
Griesbaum first saw Barnett play at a prep tournament in the United States and fell in love with her athleticism. Iowa was the first school to show interest in the defender, and the Hawkeyes were rewarded as a result.
"It was exciting for me to have that sort of interest," said Barnett of Iowa's recruitment. "When I came to Iowa on a visit, the whole experience was amazing, and the facilities were like nothing I had ever seen before in my life."
In Barnett's eyes, it was a match made in heaven.
When Barnett made her way to campus in 2009, the Hawkeyes were coming off a Final Four appearance. Griesbaum and the Hawkeyes were reloading, and Barnett made an early impression to make her way into the lineup.
"We thought she could compete because she's very gifted," said Griesbaum. "We knew that if she could hone her skills just enough, to be able to contribute tactically to our team, she would have a chance."
Barnett did more than contribute as a freshman. She stepped into the Iowa starting lineup during the first game of the season, and she hasn't relinquished her spot since. The Hawkeyes went 9-10 during her first season before slipping to 3-15 in 2010.
They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
Following the 2009 and 2010 growing pains, Barnett helped Iowa return to the NCAA Tournament, earning one of the at-large berths. The Hawkeyes finished the season with a 15-5 record.
"We had four freshmen start in 2009," said Griesbaum. "The team had a lot of growing pains, but I believe we wouldn't have had the year we had last year if they didn't have that on-field playing experience and leadership opportunities."
"I don't think last year happens without those struggles we had to overcome," said Barnett. "All the hard work we put in for 365 days to get back to the tournament was worth it."
Barnett not only took on a bigger leadership role as a junior -- she and junior Kathleen McGraw were team captains and the pair is in the same role in 2012 -- but she was asked to step up offensively.
"As a freshman it was more learning," said Barnett. "I played deep defender. I wasn't really looking to score, I was looking to play a solid defensive game, do the simple things. As I got older, I knew I needed to take on a bigger role for the team. We need goal scorers, and we needed someone to step up, so I took that upon myself."
Barnett scored seven goals to lead the team during her sophomore season. As a junior, she surpassed her total from her first two seasons, netting 11 goals and adding a pair of assists. She was recognized for her play by earning third-team National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-America and first-team All-Big Ten honors. She was the 81st All-American in Iowa history.
Griesbaum says Barnett's continual development allowed her to take on a larger role within the offensive attack.
"Her mindset has always been there, her willingness has always been there, but we had to train and get her fundamentals a little more sound," she said. "She has been a more integral part of our penalty corner unit, which gives her more opportunity to get shots on goal and get in the circle."
Barnett's athleticism has allowed the Iowa coaching staff to utilize her in a number of ways.
"She has a strong hit and is a great tipper now," said Griesbaum. "The past two years, we have run her in as an option, so she's not only on the perimeter on the edge hitting and striking the ball, but she's running in and mixing it up closer to the goal keeper."
Barnett isn't the rah-rah type when it comes to leading the Hawkeyes. She tries to do what is right and expects her teammates will follow.
"She's not going to be a cheerleader," said Griesbaum. "She'll give someone a pat on the back now and then, but she is more of a `follow me' leader... work as hard as I do, be with me and we're going to be successful (type of leader)."
"I have always been more of a lead-by-example type of person," said Barnett. "I take a lot of pride in doing the little things right and trying to show how you're supposed to act or hold yourself accountable. With so many returning players this year, we have a lot of leaders on this team. It is not just me and Merty (McGraw), it's everyone leading themselves first."
Going through adversity during her first two seasons has made Barnett a stronger person. After leading the Hawkeyes to a 7-2 start to the 2012 season, she can't help but think of a magical fairy tale ending to her UI story.
"I would love to go to the Final Four," she said. "That would be a great way to end my senior year. We can't look too far ahead, looking past day-to-day and doing the little things right. Hopefully we can get to achieving all our goals."
Ms. "all-everything" is doing her best to keep the Hawkeyes in the moment. It's another example of Barnett doing everything in her power to help the UI field hockey program succeed.
Her next opportunity to do exactly that will come Sunday when the nationally ranked Hawkeyes entertain No. 18 Ohio State at Grant Field. Game time is set for noon.