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Field Hockey v. Yale 10/23/2011, Penn loses 2-1 Credit: Alexandra Fleischman , Alexandra Fleischman

Two years ago, Alex Iqbal was the freshman taking the Ivy League by storm. She started all 17 games for the Red and Blue in her inaugural campaign, tallying five goals and two assists, worthy of second-team All-Ivy status and the Gail Lipstein Award for outstanding freshman.

She hasn’t taken the field since.

The rising star suffered every athlete’s nightmare in the spring before her sophomore season, tearing her ACL and meniscus, completely wiping out the second year of her career.

And though the blow seemed devastating to Iqbal and the Red and Blue, her attitude and determination to make herself and her team better remained steadfast.

“I would never wish an injury like that on anyone,” she said. “But it was humbling and makes me play every game like it’s my last.”

For a player that was used to playing nearly every minute of every game, the transition to seeing the game from a coach’s perspective was radically different, but also tremendously valuable.

“When I was on the field, I would concentrate solely on what to do in my specific position,” she said. “But sitting on the sideline allowed me to see the whole field and how the team dynamic should work everywhere in play.”

And though Iqbal has been ready to return to the field since last winter, the fall slate for field hockey meant that she had an entire summer to wait until she could compete. But unlike a typical summer spent interning in the city or relaxing at the beach, the junior ventured to India, working for a local NGO, CHIRAG (Central Himalayan Rural Action Group), located in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Her research focused mainly on women’s empowerment and sustainability of self-help groups while also assisting in the development, marketing and finance departments of a local business.

And despite the drastically different life she was living in India, Iqbal still found time to improve her field hockey game, even though it seemed impossible at times.

“[In India], women don’t work out — or play sports for that matter,” she said. “I was expected to dress in traditional clothing, and that made training hard.”

But coach Colleen Fink had nothing but praise for Iqbal’s efforts this summer.

“She knew her summer would be an obstacle, but she’s dedicated and made a commitment and found a way to make it work,” Fink said.
Whether it was running through a mountain trail or stickhandling in confined areas, Iqbal used her limited free time to stay sharp in hopes of impacting the Quakers in a big way.

“I think we have the potential to make big leaps in the Ivy League this year,” Iqbal said. “Practices have been intense, and if we can translate that to our games, we will surely be making an impact this season.”

So while the almost two-year hiatus is something Iqbal “wouldn’t wish on anyone,” her experiences, both on the sideline and overseas, have undoubtedly made her an even better leader and will keep her hungrier than ever on the field.

“Alex has great skill,” Fink said. “She works extremely hard and she’s a great teammate.

“She’s going to impact the team in a big way.”


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