Iowa field hockey continues impressive season at NCAAs

No. 7 Iowa earned a at-large bid to NCAA Tournament and will play No. 12 Wake Forest in the first round.


David Harmantas

Iowa midfielder Katie Birch looks to pass the ball during the Championship Game in the Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament at Lakeside Field in Evanston, Illinois on Sunday, Nov. 3, 2018. The No. 2 ranked Terrapins defeated the No. 8 ranked Hawkeyes 2-1.

Sarah Altemeier, Sports Reporter

After a heartbreaking loss to No. 2 Maryland in the Big Ten Championship on Sunday, the No. 7 Iowa field-hockey team didn’t have much time to sulk; it heard that evening it earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

The Hawkeyes were placed in No. 4 seed Duke’s bracket, and they will play No. 12 Wake Forest in the first round of the tournament at 1:30 p.m. today in Durham, North Carolina.

“Wake Forest is a totally different team than Maryland, so what we’re focused on is our ability to play great individual defense, because Wake Forest’s huge threat is their penalty corner,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “Our individual defense is going to be key and then our ability to possess so that we can stay on attack.”

RELATED: By the Numbers: Iowa field hockey heads to NCAAs

This will be Iowa’s first NCAA tourney under Cellucci, its 23rd trip overall, and its first appearance since 2012.

“To know that we were in at-large bid — we’re actually the fifth overall seed in the tournament, our team was really psyched,” Cellucci said. “We were psyched about the draw, just knowing we’ve played Wake Forest before. They’re better now, but so are we. It’s been awhile since we’ve been in the Sweet 16, and I couldn’t be happier for the team.”      

Wake Forest has gone 3-4 against top-25 opponents this season and has an overall record of 11-9. The Deacons played their way into their conference’s championship match, only to fall to No. 1 North Carolina, 7-2.

The Hawkeyes have won seven of the last eight matches against the Deacons. The last time Iowa and Wake Forest met was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in the Hawkeyes’ season-opener. With goals from junior Katie Birch and sophomore Maddy Murphy, Iowa was victorious, 2-1.

“I think we just collectively all got better individually, our individual D, our attack, we’re passing the ball a lot quicker,” Birch said. “We’re working harder for one another. We’ve come leaps and bounds in how we’ve progressed in the press and on the outlook. Overall, the team has come milestones from where we were.”

The Hawkeyes went into the Big Ten Tournament as the sixth seed but fought their way into the championship match, upsetting Penn State and Michigan. This was the first time any sixth seed played into the final game. Iowa hopes to apply the experience from the Big Ten Tournament to NCAAs.

“We just need to tidy up in the goal circle,” Murphy said. “We had a lot of shots, but we were unfortunate not to score. I think we’re going to practice on taking the quick shots, working around the goalkeeper, things like that, and hopefully put them away this weekend.”

The winner of today’s game will play either No. 4 Duke or No. 24 Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 11 at 1:30 p.m.

“I’m excited,” Birch said. “I love playing Wake. They’re always a challenge — any NCAA team is. I think it’s just going to be an awesome opportunity, and hopefully, we can repeat what we did in the beginning and get another win, but it’s going to be a battle, so we’re just going to be prepared for anything.”

Facebook Comments