Field hockey struggles with youth


Iowa midfielder Chandler Ackers hits the ball past Stanford Clemence Couteau during the Iowa-Stanford game at Grant Field on Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015. The Hawkeyes were defeated Cardinals, 3-2 after getting a side goal with zero seconds left. (The Daily Iowan/Margaret Kispert)

Yet another Big Ten opponent dumped the Iowa field-hockey team

By Mario Williams
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All season, observers have talked about the Iowa field-hockey team lacking depth.

It’s a roster of 19 players, with five freshmen and seven sophomores.

While the Hawkeyes may have thought that being young and fresh would have helped them flourish, lack of depth has come to hurt them in the Big Ten.

The Hawks fell to Northwestern, 4-0, on Tuesday, and it marks their second-straight loss in the conference.

Its roster is fairly young because the team lost its key player, redshirt senior Natalie Cafone, to a should injury, graduated three starting seniors, starting sophomore Jessy Silfer transferred to Wake Forest, and starting freshman Pommeline Korstanje departed. Its roster last season contained 21 players.

The squad has attempted to implement changes, but that hasn’t worked well. After dropping down to No. 20 in the coaches’ poll and falling to 1-2 in the Big Ten, the team has certainly struggled, to say the least.

“We’re a young team, and I think it’s been hard to really grasp everything at once,” junior Chandler Ackers said. “We’re starting out a bit slow in our Big Ten games, and we need to fix that.”

Making improvements and adjustments is something the team has been doing all season. Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci even decided to play different players in different positions because of the lack of depth.

And because the team is fairly young with little experience, it’s been difficult to execute against the more aggressive, experienced opponents it has faced.

But last season, the Hawkeyes had the aggression they’re missing this year and experienced athletes with Cafone, Korstanje, Silfer, and graduated senior Dani Hemeon.

The second-year head coach classified Hemeon, who played midfield, and Cafone, who played forward, players who were savvy and threats to opponents. Their presence made defenders press the team more than usual, something that hasn’t been the case this season.

This time around, those key components aren’t there. Big Ten veterans are outplaying the young Hawkeye squad.

“We’ve been struggling a bit with our consistency and being able to build the ball in the back and midfield,” Cellucci said. “We’re just more easily scouted because of our lack of depth, and we don’t have the ability to really change much of our lineup. We knew that going into the season.”

Although the team has run into trouble, Cellucci noted that the youngsters playing midfield have been performing at a high level, but not fully executing in the way they should.

One of those midfielders, sophomore Mallory Lefkowitz, believes the team needs to focus more on scoring and attacking as it continues Big Ten play.

And while the season may trend different from last season, she doesn’t want skeptics to knock them out the picture just yet.

“We’re underestimating our skill and how good we really are,” Lefkowitz said. “I think once we realize we can actually take those chances to step up to a 50-50 ball and take the chances on scoring, we’ll finally get ahead of those teams. They just have more confidence than us right now because we’re a young team.”

Follow @marioxwilliams on Twitter for Iowa field-hockey news, updates, and analysis.

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