Iowa field hockey’s journey back to the Big Ten Championship begins

Last season, the Hawkeyes ran through the Big Ten Tournament as underdogs. Now, they’re looking to prove they’re the best in the conference.

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Iowa field hockey’s journey back to the Big Ten Championship begins

Iowa forward Maddy Murphy shoots toward the goal, scoring the winning point of the field hockey game between Iowa and Northwestern at Grant Field on Saturday Oct. 26, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 2-1.

Iowa forward Maddy Murphy shoots toward the goal, scoring the winning point of the field hockey game between Iowa and Northwestern at Grant Field on Saturday Oct. 26, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 2-1.

Hannah Kinson

Iowa forward Maddy Murphy shoots toward the goal, scoring the winning point of the field hockey game between Iowa and Northwestern at Grant Field on Saturday Oct. 26, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 2-1.

Hannah Kinson

Hannah Kinson

Iowa forward Maddy Murphy shoots toward the goal, scoring the winning point of the field hockey game between Iowa and Northwestern at Grant Field on Saturday Oct. 26, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wildcats 2-1.

Anna Kayser, Sports Editor

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Last season, Iowa field hockey entered the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 6 seed and made its way to the championship. This year, as the co-Big Ten regular season champions, the Hawkeyes aren’t underdogs.

To get to this point hasn’t been easy. Ten of Iowa’s 17 games have come against ranked opponents with Iowa rounding out the regular season at No. 7 nationally.

“I think we know we can compete and play with anybody and beat anyone,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “We’ve played a really tough schedule, and our losses have come to some of the top five teams. We know we’re a top 10 team, and I think it has given the team a lot of confidence that they’re prepared, and they’ll be ready to go.”

But now, the national rankings don’t matter. Iowa is a shoo-in for the NCAA tournament, but first it has to tackle the Big Ten.

“A new season pretty much starts today,” Cellucci said. “We have a lot of goals this year and checked off the list of the first one, so now onto the second.”

With a 13-4 overall record and finishing 7-1 in the conference, the two-seeded Hawkeyes are set to take on the seven seed, Ohio State, in the conference quarterfinal at 2 p.m. today.

The Hawkeyes faced off against the Buckeyes earlier this season, winning 2-1 in Iowa City to open up the conference half of the season. Ohio State is 9-8 on the season with a 3-5 conference record.

Three of Iowa’s four losses have come by one goal against ranked teams, with the outlier being one-seed and co-Big Ten Champion Maryland. The Terrapins beat Iowa 3-0 on Oct. 11, the only time the Hawkeyes have been shut out.

“I think we’re confident in how hard we’ve been working,” junior Maddy Murphy said. “We’ve grown so much in the past couple of weeks that we know that if we show up on the day, we’ll get the job done.”

Through the season — especially in the past few weeks — Iowa’s focus hasn’t just been on the skills and schemes it needs to score goals. The team knows that to perform to the level it needs to take down those tough conference teams, it needs to work as a collective unit.

Having constant success like Iowa field hockey has had through the past two years has been an indicator that this program is in a good place.

“I think it’s going in a fantastic direction,” senior Katie Birch said. “The leadership, the coaching, just the whole team mentality at the moment, is really strong. It’s something we try to emphasize every single day in practice and any single game that we go into.”

The Big Ten Tournament goes through the weekend. Four-seeded Michigan faces off against the five-seed, Penn State, at 11 a.m. today before Iowa and Ohio State kick off on BTN-plus. Northwestern and Rutgers finish off the first round of the tournament at 5 p.m tonight.

The winners of Iowa-Ohio State and Northwestern-Rutgers will play each other tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. on BTN-plus. The championship will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday and televised live on Big Ten Network.

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