Oct. 2, 2013
Editor's note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 8, 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 2013-14 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 Marike Stribos had blind faith when she joined the University of Iowa field hockey program. That leap has turned into one of the best decisions of her life.
"This experience taught me so many things over the years," said Stribos, a midfielder from Brussels, Belgium. "I don't think anything could have substituted for it."
Stribos began playing field hockey as a 4-year-old when her mother, Janneke, got her involved in the sport. Janneke played collegiately in Belgium, and she felt it was important for her children to participate in a team sport.
When Stribos was a teenager, she played for the Belgium National Team, where she developed skills to compete at an elite level. In Belgium, players are forced to choose between athletics or solely on continuing their education following graduation, but Stribos wanted both.
"I wanted to combine field hockey and school, and at home, that is not possible," said Stribos. "When I got older, we had a family friend, Kerry de Vries, who played at Iowa, so she explained to me how the system worked in the United States, and I got interested."
UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum first heard of Stribos through email exchanges and watching video. She was intrigued, so she felt it would be beneficial to travel the 4,500 miles to see Stribos play in person.
"We thought it would be worthwhile to travel to Brussels, ride in a diesel Volkswagen through downtown to try and watch her play," said Griesbaum. "As soon as we saw her video, we thought she was of the level we wanted, and then we got the chance to talk to her and meet her parents. There was never a doubt in our mind."
When Stribos arrived in Iowa City in August 2010, it was her first time in the United State and stepping foot on the University of Iowa campus. That didn't faze her.
"I wasn't nervous," she said. "I was excited because I love field hockey so much. The coaches came to Belgium, so I had met them, and one of my classmates, Niki (Schultheis) is from Germany, so I met her before.
"When I came here, we started preseason right away, so I didn't have to think about if I liked it or not because we were busy and going at it."
Griesbaum says it takes a mature individual and a special player for the circumstances to play out the way they did for Stribos.
"Those are the beautiful recruiting stories because usually it is such a long process," she said. "She had heard so much about Iowa from one of our alums, she did a lot of research on her own. She is very mature and so far ahead of her time. She wasn't intimidated at all coming here."
Stribos stepped into the Hawkeye lineup as a freshman, playing in all 17 games with 16 starts. She finished with a pair of assists.
After struggling to a 3-14 team record in 2010, the Hawkeyes went to work and produced results. Iowa finished 15-5 with an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2011 before going 14-7 with a second-straight NCAA berth in 2012.
"We got more mature and the spring after our first season, we worked hard in the weight room, on the field, and got a lot of practice in," said Stribos. "All the girls on the team understood it's not going to happen like this, we have to work for it. The next season we changed it around."
Stribos was a big part of Iowa's transformation. She finished with a team-high seven assists, while also scoring three goals as a sophomore. In 2012, Stribos had five goals and five assists en route to earning Longstreth/NFHCA First Team West Region All-America and second team All-Big Ten honors.
Griesbaum says Stribos' physicality is the key to her growth.
"She got the time on the field (as an underclassmen) with her training, and she started to get stronger and faster," she said. "She didn't have that when she came to Iowa. It took time for her to reach her potential with her physicality, but now that she has that there is nothing that is stopping her."
Stribos' understanding of the game has improved since joining the team in 2010, and that has put her in a position to be a stronger leader.
"By understanding the game and being more experienced, I am able to help the younger players right now," she said. "That's my strength on the field."
A mark of a great player is their ability to make teammates better. With her consistency, Stribos does just that.
"For athletes, (consistency) is a learned thing, and I think Marike had that right away," said Griesbaum. "She gave you her best every day from the first day she stepped on the field. She has a good way of taking a situation and thinking about how she can make this better.
"She is the one out there not just following the drill, but adding more game-like situations (in practice) to it or trying to raise the level without having it be coach-driven all the time. I feel like I have an extension of myself on the field and I never question if she is going to get the most out of her teammates."
Stribos gives everything she has to the Hawkeye program. In the classroom, she has thrived, earning three NFHCA National Academic Squad honors, while being a two-time Academic All-Big Ten and Big Ten Distinguished Scholar selection.
"She is organized and takes a lot of pride in everything," said Griesbaum. "She despises losing, despises getting a B on anything. She represents our program top-notch in every aspect we could ask for.
"She is an amazing student and is an awesome, reliable person."
It took a leap of faith for Stribos to become a Hawkeye and attend the University of Iowa, but the experience has made her prepared for whatever lies ahead.
"Besides having a great family of friends and coaches here, (being a student-athlete at Iowa) teaches you about life too, besides just the sport," said Stribos, who is set to graduate in May with a degree in finance and management. "After four years, it changes you in a good way and you're stronger as a person. It makes you ready for what is next."