I hardly knew anything about Iowa field hockey player Jessica Barnett before researching information for this column.
It didn’t take much digging to realize that Barnett deserved to be ranked among the top 10 female student-athletes at the University of Iowa for the 2011-12 school year.
And the more I learned about Barnett, with help from Iowa assistant sports information director Aaron Blau, it became apparent that she didn’t just deserve to be on the list, she deserved the top spot.
Barnett earned that distinction over freshman softball player Megan Blank, who edged freshman swimmer Becky Stoughton for the second spot.
In fact, three of the top four spots went to freshmen. Basketball player Samantha Logic was awarded the fourth spot in a very close call over senior tennis player Sonja Molner, who probably deserves a lifetime achievement award for her consistency as a Hawkeye.
Here is closer look at each of the 10 student-athletes who made the list.
1. Jessica Barnett, jr., field hockey
You name the honor and this native of North Vancouver, Canada, probably received it last season, including being named Iowa’s Female Athlete of the Year. She became Iowa’s 81st All-American in field hockey, earning first team recognition, along with being named a Regional all-American. She also made first-team all-Big Ten and was named to the Big Ten all-Tournament team.
Barnett has started all 56 games in her Hawkeye career and was named the Big Ten Player of the Week three times this past season. The last player to accomplish that for Iowa was Kristy Gleason in 1992.
2. Megan Blank, fr., softball
The Culver City, Calif., native became just the ninth Hawkeye and the first since Stacy May in 2003 to make first-team all-Big Ten as a freshman.
Blank led Iowa in batting average (.390), hits (60), doubles (17), triples (5) and walks (25). She also started every game and posted a .971 fielding percentage to lead all Big Ten shortstops. Her five triples are tied for eighth most in school history and her .390 batting average is tied for 10th all-time in school history.
3. Becky Stoughton, fr., swimming
The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year holds 12 school records including the 200, 500, 1,000 and 1,650 freestyle events. She earned honorable mention all-America honors after finishing ninth in the 1,650 freestyle. Her time of 16:03.42 ranks ninth all-time in Big Ten history. Stoughton was the first member of the Iowa women’s team to qualify for the NCAA Championships since Jennifer Skolaski swam in three events in 2005.
A native of Peroria, Ill., Stoughton also finished third in the 500 freestyle, fourth in the 400 IM and sixth in the 1,650 freestyle at the Big Ten Championships.
4. Samantha Logic, fr., basketball
She proved to be as good as advertised, especially late in the season, after coming to Iowa as one of the most heralded recruits to sign with coach Lisa Bluder.
Logic became a stat-sheet stuffer for the Hawkeyes as a freshman, leading the team in rebounding and assists with per-game averages of 7.1 and 4.3, respectively. The Racine, Wis., native also led Iowa with 47 steals and finished fourth on the team in scoring with a 9.4 per-game average.
Her play down the stretch was instrumental in Iowa making the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes won their final eight regular-season games with Logic leading the way.
5. Sonja Molner, sr., tennis
She capped an outstanding career by making first-team all-Big Ten in each of her four seasons. She led Iowa with a 16-6 dual record this past season while playing at No. 1 singles.
A native of Guelph, Ontario, Molnar finished 27-8 overall and became just the third player in school history to record at least 100 career victories.
6. Sarah Drake, jr. field hockey
The Ann Arbor, Mich., native made first-team all-Big Ten and was selected to the West Region All-America team. She finished third on the team in scoring with 20 points and third on the team with eight goals. She also tied for third on the team with four assists and scored game-winning goals against Providence and Indiana.
7. Kayla Massey, so., softball
Her 15-11 record as a pitcher this past season isn’t that impressive until you realize how dominant she was down the stretch. She won seven of her last nine starts and pitched five shutouts during that stretch.
She also compiled a 9-3 record in 12 Big Ten starts, going the distance in all but one of her starts. A native of Foothill Ranch, Calif., Massey finished with a league-best four shutouts in conference play while holding batters to a .217 average.
8. Morgan Johnson, jr., basketball
Considered somewhat of a project when she signed with Iowa, the 6-foot-5 Johnson now ranks among the top centers in the Big Ten. She made second-team all-Big Ten this past season and was named Iowa’s Most Improved Player. She led the Hawkeyes in rebounding with a 6.6 per-game average and was the team’s second leading scorer with a 14.9 per-game average.
The Platte, City, Mo., native also finished the season ranked seventh nationally in field-goal percentage at 54.9 percent.
9. McKenzi Melander, sr., track and field
She nearly pulled off a spectacular double-double at the Big Ten Championships, finishing first in the 5,000 and second in the 10,000 meter races.
A native of Apple Valley, Minn., Melander won her first Big Ten title in her final championship event.
She finished in 14th place in the 5,000 at the NCAA Championships earlier this month at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.
That earned her second-team all-America recognition, an honor that goes to any student-athlete who places ninth through 16th at the NCAA Championships.
10. Morgan Showalter, Sr., soccer
The Cedar Rapids native made second-team all-Big Ten in her first season playing as a defender. She moved to defense for her senior season and then helped lead the Hawkeyes to a 13-4-3 record, which is one the best marks in school history.
Iowa only allowed 17 goals in the first 19 games.
A former standout at Cedar Rapids Xavier, Showalter also became Iowa’s all-time assist leader this past season, finishing with 27 during her career.
She edged out Ashley Liverpool, who finished runner-up in the 400-meters at the Big Ten Championships, for the 10th spot on the list.
Betsy Flood, track and field; Cloe Lacasse, soccer; Ashley Liverpool, track and field; Kathleen McGraw, field hockey; Jaime Printy, basketball; Emma Stevenson, gymnastics; Kamille Wahlin, basketball; Liz Watkins, softball.
Reach Pat Harty at 339-7368 or email@example.com