September 2016

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Page 118 of 126

119 T he University of Iowa field hockey team is setting high expectations for the 2016 season as they welcome back two-time All-American and 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year Natalie Cafone. e Hawkeyes are looking to learn from last season as they try to get back to the top of the Big Ten Conference. "It's always the goal for Iowa field hockey, and it's definitely our standard and expectation," said UI head coach Lisa Cellucci. "We learned a lot from last year. We were in so many games and lost by one goal. We were just a couple sound decision- making skills or tactics away from wins. Now you throw in (Cafone) and I think it can really help us." Cafone, who redshirted the 2015 season because of injury, is ready to take advantage of her final year as a Hawkeye and win a Big Ten Championship. "Winning the Big Ten is always one of our goals," said Cafone. "We've been in the weight room, practicing, and conditioning all summer. We are trying to get better in any way we can." In 2014, Cafone was named NFHCA West Region Player of e Year, while leading the conference and ranking fourth nationally in goals per game (1.00). e native of Fairfield, New Jersey, also led the Hawkeyes with 18 goals and 41 points in 2014. "I'm excited to be back on the field with my teammates," said Cafone. "It was a different learning experience last year. I was able to watch every game and learn from a tactical point of view. I was able to learn from the coaching on the sideline and from what my teammates were producing on the field. I'm thankful for this opportunity to be able to play with my teammates one last season." e Hawkeyes return 14 players: four seniors, five juniors, and five sophomores. Iowa also welcomes five freshmen. One of those rookies is defender Katie Birch. e York, England, native was captain of her U18 national team that captured bronze this summer at the European Championships. Although Birch is new to the team, she also feels like this year's group is more than capable of winning a championship. "We set out to win a championship, and I believe we can do it," said Birch. "We have great team chemistry, and it's a great atmosphere." Iowa is off to a fast start to the season winning three of its first four matches, including a 2-1 win at No. 7 Wake Forest. e Hawkeyes are eager to carry the early season momentum into league play, and want to use the end of last year to motivate them. "None of us liked how last season ended," said goalkeeper Alexandra Pecora. "I believe we are prepared and ready to compete for a Big Ten championship."

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