The young Iowa field hockey team turns heads

Iowa’s season is over, but it will return 9 of its 11 starters next season.


David Harmantas

Iowa midfielder Makenna Grewe (center, left) smiles as the Iowa field hockey team celebrates after the Semifinals in the Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament at Lakeside Field in Evanston, Illinois, on Friday, Nov. 2, 2018. The No. 8 ranked Hawkeyes defeated the No. 7 ranked Wolverines 2-1.

Sarah Altemeier, Sports Reporter

The No. 7 Iowa field-hockey team ended its season against No. 12 Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, falling to the Demon Deacons, 3-2. Although the match ended Iowa’s season, it didn’t diminish the accomplishments the Hawkeyes achieved in the season.

Iowa finished the season 14-7. The Hawkeyes recorded the most wins in one season since 2011, when they won 15.

The Hawkeyes only lost to top-14 opponents. In their 21 games, they played some noteworthy matches.

In the second match of the season, Iowa took No. 1 North Carolina into overtime. Despite losing, 2-1, the game set the tone for the rest of the season.

Another impressive game came when Iowa upset No. 6 Penn State during the regular season. The Hawkeyes won this one in the final minutes of play, and sophomore Maddy Murphy recorded her first-career hat trick, leading Iowa to a 3-2 victory.

It’s significant if a team upsets an opponent once, but Iowa turned around two weeks later to defeat the Nittany Lions again, this time in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. Junior Sophie Sunderland and sophomore Ellie Holley notched the first 2 Hawkeye goals, both assisted by freshmen Anthe Nijziel. After her 2 assists, Nijziel scored the game-winning overtime goal for the Hawkeyes, sending them to the semifinals of the tournament.

In the semifinals, Iowa registered yet another upset, beating No. 7 Michigan, 2-1, with the Hawkeye goals courtesy of senior Makenna Grewe and junior Katie Birch. The Hawkeyes became the first-ever No. 6 seed in the Big Ten Tournament to play in the championship game. 

RELATED: Iowa field hockey falls to Wake Forest in first round of NCAA Tournament 

Despite losing to Maryland in the finals, 2-1, Iowa earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the Hawkeyes’ first appearance since 2012. It was also their first tourney under head coach Lisa Cellucci.

Next season, the Hawkeyes will return nine of their 11 starters, graduating only Grewe, Isabella Brown, and Riley Kniptash. Of the nine returning starters, there are a handful of players who could shine brightly.

Nijziel had an outstanding freshman season, starting every game for the Hawkeyes. She recorded 5 goals and 4 assists while playing a key role in Iowa’s tough defense. In the highlight of her season, she recorded 2 assists and the game-winning goal in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

Sophomores Holley and Murphy played important roles this season. Holley battled through mono at the beginning of the season but tallied 4 goals and 3 assists for the Hawkeyes. Cellucci called her the “X-factor” of the Hawkeyes’ quarterfinal win over Penn State. Murphy registered a team-high 13 goals and 7 assists and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Captains Sunderland and Birch also garnered Big Ten honors. The two essential midfielders combined for 15 goals and 15 assists, and both put up hat tricks.

The young field-hockey team shows a lot of promise, and people should not overlook the squad next season; it will come back experienced and hungry for revenge.