Making big strides this spring
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The University of Iowa field hockey team's 2012 spring season has a bit more international flair than usual.
Each year, the Hawkeyes compete in five spring competition dates over the course of eight weeks. This season, four UI standouts are competing for respective national teams around the globe.
Goalkeeper Kathleen McGraw is with the U21 U.S. National Team in London, England, this week. Photo courtesy of Hawkeye Sports.
Goalkeeper Kathleen McGraw is with the U21 U.S. National Team in London, England. The U.S. U21 Team will face the England U21 Team in four matches this week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday); the Americans won the opening match, 3-1.
The Canadian Women's Junior National Team features three Hawkeye standouts: Jessica Barnett, Kim Scraper, and Karli Johansen. The trio of Hawkeyes are currently in Vancouver, British Columbia, with the Canadian team facing the United States U19 team. The teams will compete Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The Hawkeyes, meanwhile, traveled to Louisville, Ky., over the weekend for their first two spring competition dates on Saturday and Sunday. Iowa finished 5-0-1 against the likes of Michigan State, Indiana, Ohio, and Missouri State.
"We are going three separate ways, but we are excited," says UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum. "We are all enjoying really great opportunities. For Merty (Kathleen McGraw) to go and represent our country overseas, that will be a real positive experience for her and Team USA. Our student athletes competing for the Canadian team will have a great experience too. This is going to be an exciting week."
Not all student-athletes get to experience special opportunities like ones presented to these Hawkeyes.
"It is really special," says Griesbaum, who completed her 12th season at the helm of the Iowa program in 2011. "It basically says to everyone that they have the field hockey ability to be one of the best in their age group in their respective countries. In addition, you get an opportunity to travel and see different parts of the world while representing yourself, your family, and the University of Iowa. They should feel very honored."
Griesbaum would love for the team to be all together, especially with the squad having its first competition last weekend since the NCAA Tournament last November. She recognizes the beneficial opportunities these experiences provide.
"Merty (McGraw) is going to play against great competition," says Griesbaum. "She gets to see England and probably will see, if not play at, the Olympic venue. The trio competing in the Canada-USA series in Vancouver will be playing at a very high level as well. In addition, our coaching staff gets to see some of our other upperclassmen in different roles. They will have to step up. It is going to be great for them."
The spring season is a crucial time for the Hawkeyes to make progress heading into next year. Iowa enjoyed a great season in 2011, reaching its 21st NCAA Tournament in program history. The team will return 17 of the 18 student athletes next year from a team that finished 15-5 overall, 4-2 in the Big Ten, and ranked 12th nationally. The Hawkeyes will return 93 percent of their goal scoring.
The Hawkeyes are poised to make another special run in 2012, and the spring season is the beginning of that run.
Hawkeye fans can catch the UI field hockey team in action when Iowa closes its spring slate by hosting its annual spring tournament on Saturday, April 28. Iowa, Northwestern, and a Hawkeye alumni team will begin play at noon at Grant Field.