Fall Sports Update
With a new school year underway, Hawk nests across the nation are anxious to kick off another set of trailblazing sports seasons. Soccer, volleyball, field hockey, cross country, football – follow one or follow them all. Either way, an exciting season is ahead for Iowa sports fans.
Women’s soccer set the bar higher than ever last year by reaching the championship game of the Big Ten tournament and earning a berth to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. They look to repeat that appearance this year with new Head Coach Dave DiIanni (De-ANN-ee) and new Interim Assistant Coach Erica Demers—both coming to Iowa from Grand Valley State. DiIanni holds the best NCAA Division II record at 221-18-18 (.895), and the third best record among coaches at any division. Combining his experience with a core of 19 returning letterwinners and nine starters, who set a new record with 15 wins in 2013, excites Iowa soccer fans everywhere. If that isn’t enough, the recruits are making headlines, too. Incoming Freshman Rose Ripslinger* was selected as the Gatorade Iowa Girls Soccer Player of the Year for the fourth consecutive year. This is the first time anyone from either gender has received the award four consecutive years, but she did not stop there. She also was named to the 2014 NSCAA High School Girls All-America Team by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Redshirt Senior Midfielder and Athletics Development Intern Katie Nasenbenny* shared with us her thoughts on the upcoming year: “We are excited about the 2014-2015 season. We’re hoping to build from where we left off, and we know that with a strong returning group and tough newcomers that will be possible.” A new year, new coach, and new team have a few familiar faces ready to rewrite the record books again.
*Nasenbenny and Ripslinger both, unfortunately, tore their ACLs shortly before production of this article. However, the goals of the team and new head coach remain unchanged and Iowa soccer fans are still expecting an electric season.
The Iowa volleyball team welcomes a new coaching staff, as well, as they look forward to the season. Coming off an 11-21 season in 2013 with an 11th place finish in Big Ten standings, 10 returning student-athletes look for a fresh start with new Head Coach Bond Shymansky at the reigns. Shymansky has already made a push in the right direction as he put together a recruiting class that received the Highest Honorable Mention distinction from Prep Volleyball. Six new faces will join the team this fall, including five incoming freshmen and one junior transfer. Shymansky is no stranger to winning. He helped set records and earned distinctive titles at both Marquette and Georgia Tech before heading home to Iowa, where his story began. As a member of the men’s volleyball club team at Iowa from 1991 to 1993, he completed his Bachelor of Arts from the UI and went on to receive his master’s degree, as well. He will lead the charge this fall with a new staff to support him as the volleyball team looks to turn around their season from a year ago.
After 14 seasons, the Iowa field hockey team will have a new leader, but few hold worries about that. Iowa field hockey consistently finds success—including 11 NCAA Final Fours, 22 NCAA Tournament appearances, 1986 national championship, 12 conference championships, and that’s just the beginning. However, not a single player is originally from this state because Iowa does not offer High School Field Hockey. Nevertheless, these Hawkeyes quickly come together every year and form a black and gold force to be reckoned with. Coming off last season, six UI field hockey student-athletes were selected to compete in two U.S. High Performance Tournaments and all of them will be back this season. Chandler Ackers, Natalie Cafone, and Dani Hemeon participated in the Women’s National Championship, while Alexandra Pecora, Jessy Silfer, and Isabella Licciardellow played in the U21 Championship. To keep the ball rolling, All-Big Ten recognition also showered the team with Cafone and Hemeon earning first team honors, Karli Johansen snatching second team honors, and Stephanie Norlander taking home Freshman of the Year. Cafone, Hemeon and Norlander also earned NFHCA West Region All-America honors, and Hemeon and Cafone earned All-America honors. The most recent success by this remarkable group of women was Cafone's selection to the 2014-2015 U.S. Women’s National Team. This honor will be shared with former UI Field Hockey All-American Lauren Pfeiffer. A team full of award-winning Hawkeye women will make the transition easier on their incoming coach as this season is set to be another one for the record-books on Grant Field.
Track and Field/Cross Country
Another new face among fall Hawkeye sports is Joey Woody, who has taken over as the new Director of Track & Field / Cross Country. Last season, both the men’s and women’s cross country teams recorded personal best times at the NCAA Midwest Regional. 18 women and 18 men return to raise that bar – including Senior Kevin Lewis, who earned All-Region honors at the NCAA Midwest Regional a year ago. Each member of these squads will be looking for an opportunity to run at home during the Big Ten championships, which Iowa will host November 2. Many of these athletes also compete with the Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field teams, so Hawkeye fans can watch them year-round.
Who’s back in black? Some familiar faces on the Hawkeye football team are about to swarm Kinnick Stadium, as well as Hawk nests nationwide. Last season ignited Hawkeye pride everywhere and the boys of fall are working to give us all an even better show this year. On top of garnering numerous awards at the end of the 2013-2014 season, preseason polls have been buzzing all summer with black and gold names. Among them are Athlon Sports’ preseason All-Big Ten Teams—which include 10 returning Hawkeyes on the rosters. Recognized on the first team were seniors Brandon Scherff (offensive tackle) and Carl Davis (defensive tackle). Seniors Louis Trinca-Pasat (defensive tackle) and Kevonte Martin-Manley (punt returner) were named to the second unit. Senior John Lowdermilk (safety), junior Austin Blythe (center), and sophomore Desmond King (cornerback) were recognized on the third team. Seniors Mark Weisman (running back) and Martin-Manley (wide receiver), and junior offensive guard Jordan Walsh, were named to the fourth team. Scherff, Martin-Manley, and Davis also have received preseason all-Big Ten honors from other publications, as well as all-America picks by various sources.
Hawkeye fans aren’t the only people taking note of the talent on this season’s team— many of the student-athletes have made preseason watch lists. Scherff and Davis have been named to the 2014 Outland Trophy Watch List. The Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) honors the most outstanding interior lineman with this award each year.
Last season, Martin-Manley made history as the first Big Ten Conference player to ever return back-to-back-punts for touchdowns and just the second player in the last decade with two punt return touchdowns in one quarter. He has been named to the preseason watch list for the 2014 Paul Hornung Award as a wide receiver, presented by Texas Roadhouse. The award recognizes and rewards versatile, high-level performers in college football.
Defensive linemen Davis has been named to the 2014 Bednarik Award watch list. The Bednarik Award is presented annually to the top defensive college football player each season. Davis earns one more watch list honor as he has been named to the 2014 Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List. He is one of 81 Division I players nominated for the award, which is presented to the national defensive player of the year.
Junior center Austin Blythe has been named to the 2014 Rimington Trophy Watch List. The Rimington Trophy is presented annually to the most outstanding center in NCAA Division I college football. Blythe, Davis, and Scherff were each named to the 2014 Rotary Lombardi Award preseason Watch List, which goes to the best lineman or linebacker in college football
Four other Hawkeyes were named to the College Football Performance Awards preseason watch list. In order to make this list, candidates are evaluated scientifically regarding the extent to which they increase the overall effectiveness of their teams. This recognition was given to Weisman, Martin-Manley, junior Jake Duzey—who also earned a spot on the Tight End Trophy Watch List—and junior Punter Trophy watch list honoree Connor Kornbrath. As the season draws closer, the amount of preseason honors for this Hawkeye football team grows.
All of these recognition honors are a direct result of the outstanding 2013 season. Coach Ferentz led the team to an 8-5 overall record ending with a match-up against LSU in the Outback Bowl. Ferentz and his staff have led the Hawkeyes to bowl eligibility in 12 of the last 13 seasons. This season is anticipated to continue that trend. As we countdown to August 30 here at home, the rest of the nation also has taken note of the potential in the 2014-2015 Hawkeye football season.