Field hockey looks to maintain perfect conference record against a pair of Big Ten foes

Iowa heads east to face off against Maryland and Penn State with a perfect conference record on the line.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa midfielder Katie Birch looks to pass during a field hockey match between Iowa and Ohio State on Friday, September 27, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Buckeyes, 2-1.

Sarah Altemeier, Sports Reporter

Last season, the Iowa field hockey team held a record of 9-2 after 11 games. In post-season play, it went on to place second at the Big Ten Championships, falling to Maryland 2-1.

This year, the Hawkeyes are, again, 9-2 after 11 matches. The 2019 team is undefeated against Big Ten opponents with wins against Ohio State, Michigan State, and Rutgers.

“It feels great [to be undefeated in Big Ten play],” sophomore Leah Zellner said. “We’re focusing one game at a time. We’re all working hard for each other, and we’re really excited.”

The No. 6 Hawkeyes are one of two teams in the conference that has yet to fall to another Big Ten team, the Terrapins being the other. After this weekend, though, only one squad will be left with a zero in the loss column. The Hawkeyes play Maryland at 3 p.m. Oct. 11.

What is different about this Hawkeye team compared to past years is the team’s mindset, connectivity, and the ability of the whole team to contribute is what they have going for them this year against Maryland.

“This year’s [team] is a completely different team,” Zellner said. “We have a better mindset, and we’re working extremely hard for each other. We’re all super close, and every practice we put 110 percent in and just have fun in every game.”

Iowa returned nine of 11 starters from last year’s squad, graduating defender Isabella Brown and forward Makenna Grewe.

Junior Maddy Murphy and seniors Katie Birch and Sophie Sunderland earned All-Big Ten Honors last season and are three of the nine returners. These three have combined to score 15 goals and register 16 assists this season.

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“Our connections all over [are clicking],” Murphy said. “Something we worked on a lot the last couple games was just the midfields connecting with the defense and the strikers, and I think that’s really going for us right now.”

In addition to returning the bulk of the team, the Hawkeye squad has made a couple noteworthy additions.

Freshmen Esme Gibson has played and started in all 11 games of this season. She has played defender for the Hawkeyes and has an assist to her name. Freshmen Sofie Stribos plays forward or midfielder and has started and played in nine games. Stribos has scored two goals for the Hawkeyes.

“Everybody’s contributing — even just [in the Rutgers game], you saw Esme Gibson at the right back,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “She generated some awesome things on offense as a freshman, Leah, up front, Makenna MaGuire. Everybody’s contributing, and that’s a big part of how we go about training with our team and what we expect from everyone.”

After the Maryland match-up, the Hawkeyes will face Penn State Oct. 13 in Pennsylvania. The grueling schedule Iowa has been through and will continue to face this season presents a challenge — even for a team ranked in the top 10. But the Hawkeyes are just taking things one game at a time.

“[We have] a lot of momentum going forward,” Murphy said. “[We are] just taking every game as it is and not focusing too much on the past, just working as much as we can, getting better every game.”

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