New Jersey native Liz Tchou helped power Iowa to the 1986 NCAA title
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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When Liz Tchou stepped on the field inside Kinnick Stadium Sept. 8 during the Iowa Varsity Club Athletics Hall of Fame weekend, she returned to the venue where she became one of the University of Iowa field hockey greats.
Tchou was one of five members of the 2012 Hall of Fame class, along with Jim Craig (wrestling), Bill Frazier (cross country/track and field), Royce Alger (wrestling) and Bashir Yamini (track and field/football).
"I am honored," said Tchou. "I don't think it is going to sink in until I get there. I wouldn't have accomplished everything without my parents. They sacrificed so much for me, and I really appreciate that."
Tchou had ambitions of playing in college and beyond as a prep standout at Shawnee High School in New Jersey. It was during an exhibition match between the U.S. National Team and the club team Red Rose that she first laid out her aspirations.
"It was a night game, and Team USA was giving out posters and signing autographs," said Tchou. "I remember looking out, and my dad said, `What do you think?' I said, `I want to wear that uniform.'
"From that moment, I was pursuing a good school. I didn't want to go to a school that had already won championships. I wanted to go somewhere that was on the brink, and at the time, Iowa was one of those programs that had kept getting better."
Tchou credits former UI assistant coach Michele Madison on selling her the Hawkeye vision. Once she ventured to the Midwest on an official visit, it was a done deal.
"It was the first time I had gotten on a plane by myself, and I flew through Chicago's O'Hare airport," recalled Tchou of her first trip to Iowa City. "(Head coach) Dr. Judith Davidson picked me up, and I remember driving into town past the Old Capital, and I thought to myself, `I'm coming here.'"
Tchou entered an Iowa program that shared the Big Ten regular season title and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight the year prior to her arrival. During Tchou's first season in 1984, Iowa made its first Final Four, finishing as the NCAA runner-up.
After playing in NCAA regionals as a sophomore, Tchou guided the Hawkeyes to the NCAA title in 1986 and to their third Final Four as a senior. In her four years, she helped Iowa to four NCAA tournament appearances, two Big Ten regular season titles and two Big Ten runner-up finishes. The squad went 72-18-7 during her time as a Hawkeye.
"I remember my freshman year was the first year we made the Final Four as a program," said Tchou. "All I could think about was the players before me that paved the way for us to be where we were at during that moment.
"I remember talking to people who had just graduated -- Donna Lee, Ellen Egan. They were the ones that worked hard and brought a lot of notoriety to our program. The year I got there, we were poised to win."
Following her final regular season game as a Hawkeye -- a 4-0 win over Michigan -- Tchou's No. 3 uniform was retired in a postgame ceremony. The honor came as a surprise, as it was the first (and still only) women's number retired in school history.
"I was shocked," said Tchou, whose 75 career goals rank fifth in UI record books. "When they announced it, I was like `What? What did he just say?' Then I thought of my parents. They were there and made 14-of-21 games during my senior year, which was pretty amazing coming from New Jersey.
"I have never been someone that has been into personal accolades, so in my mind, I thanked everybody for giving me such a positive atmosphere and experience."
Tchou concluded her Hawkeye playing career as a National Field Hockey Coaches Association first team All-American and the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 1987. She was also a two-time Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient, a nominee for the Honda-Broderick Sports Award, and a four-time first team all-conference and three-time all-region honoree.
Tchou went on to achieve her goal of donning the red, white and blue. She competed for the U.S. National Team for seven years and capped off her career by playing in the 1996 Olympics.
"Ever since high school I wanted to get there, and I didn't care how long it was going to take," said Tchou. "I was kind of a late bloomer that didn't make the Olympic team until I was 31."
During her Olympic run in Atlanta, Tchou cherished the opportunity to compete alongside three other Hawkeyes -- Kris Fillat, Marcia Pankratz and Andrea Wieland. She was also coached by Madison, the former UI assistant that spearheaded her recruitment.
"It was amazing," said Tchou, who now works as the U.S. Field Hockey youth development manager. "I can't tell you how much I respect all the Hawks that followed me. We all had the same aspirations and always talked about teamwork and chemistry. We all went through and learned so much at Iowa, and it carried through in helping us make the next level."
When Tchou takes a stroll to midfield at Kinnick, it will complete her Hawkeye journey.
"I am honored to be a part of the Iowa athletics program," she said. "It will be fitting for me to be able to come back and see a football game inside Kinnick Stadium."