Iowa field hockey prepares to battle ranked opponents

Iowa heads to Evanston this weekend to take on No. 14 Northwestern today and No. 25 Cal on Sept. 22.


Chris Kalous

Iowa's Anthe Nijziel receives the ball during the Indiana field hockey game on Sunday, Sept. 16 2018. The Hawkeyes defeated the Hoosiers (3-0), and have now won six consecutive games.

Sarah Altemeier, Sports Reporter

The Iowa field hockey team has moved up in the rankings again. Now ranked No. 13, the Hawkeyes will travel to Evanston, Illinois, to take on two ranked teams this weekend.

The Hawkeyes will face No. 14 Northwestern — its second Big Ten opponent of the season — today at noon, then compete against No. 25 California on Sept. 23, again at noon.

“[We need] to continue to focus on us and what we’re doing well — we need to do even better,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “A few things that we could probably clean up, we absolutely have to clean up for this weekend. Especially, again, our ability to sustain our attack and clean up our offensive third, because Northwestern and Cal have great defenses. The chances we get, we need to be able to capitalize on them.”

Northwestern has a record of 5-4, and it has competed against six ranked teams this season. The Wildcats notched wins over ranked Stanford and Boston College.

Similar to Iowa, the Wildcats won their only Big Ten matchup, against Indiana, 2-1. The Hawkeyes also beat the Hoosiers, 3-0.

Last season, the Hawkeyes fell to Northwestern, 4-3, in overtime. Junior Katie Birch, who was named conference Defensive Player of Week on Monday, believes the result will be different this year if the Hawkeyes play the way they’re capable of.

“We’re going to try to close it down in the first half, really dictate it,” she said. “I think that we just have to play to our standard. We know how good we can be. We can rise to occasions, and we can definitely dominate when we want to and when we have to. We just have to go in with that mentality of just playing our game.”

Birch has tallied 6 assists in the last five games, tied for third in the Big Ten.

Cal is 3-3 with wins over Providence, Miami (Ohio), and Yale. The Golden Bears have fallen to three ranked teams: Maryland, North Carolina, and Louisville. Cal lost to North Carolina, 6-0, and Iowa lost to the Tar Heels, 2-1, in overtime. The Hawkeyes are 11-1 against the Golden Bears, beating them, 3-0, last season.

The Hawkeyes have shut out five teams this season, and in order to continue that against California, the Hawkeyes will need to shut down Megan Rodgers, who has scored 6 goals this season.

RELATED: Cellucci finds success twice with Iowa field hockey 

Freshman Anthe Nijziel, awarded Co-Freshman of the Week on Monday, sees the task as one the team tackles and accomplishes together.

“It’s not only the back three of us, it’s the whole team,” she said. “It’s even the people in front who organize and put the effort in the press. It makes everything for us in the back a lot easier to eventually get the ball.”

Nijziel has scored in three-straight games and is one of two freshmen, along with Lokke Stribos, who has started all eight matches this season.

Iowa has allowed just 1 goal in the past six games and only 4 goals so far this season. The Hawkeyes are outscoring their opponents, 15-4, and average 16.4 shots per game, ranking fourth in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes are 7-1, having not lost a game since Aug. 26. 

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