Iowa field hockey opens spring season at Virginia Beach

After a historic season a year ago, the Hawkeyes open their condensed spring campaign against Indiana and Penn State this weekend.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa forward Maddy Murphy drives the ball up the field during a field hockey game between Iowa and Duke at Grant Field on Sunday, September 15, 2019. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Blue Devils, 2-1 after two overtime periods.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Last season was a historic one for Iowa field hockey. Now, the team is seeking to replicate and improve upon its success from 2019.

The Hawkeyes tied for the regular season Big Ten crown, won the Big Ten Tournament and advanced to the NCAA Field Hockey Elite Eight a season ago. The team suffered a goal-loss to eventual champions North Carolina, who finished the season unbeaten, to end its season.

It was arguably the program’s best year in well over a decade and signaled a potential new era of dominance for the Hawkeyes. Although losing Katie Birch, the team’s second-highest points contributor from last season, will hurt, Iowa will return almost the entirety of the rest of its roster from last year.

“We lost a couple good seniors; however, we have a lot of good returners coming and most of our starting lineup is coming back,” junior midfielder/forward Makenna Maguire said.

Headlining the returnees is last season’s top scorer Maddy Murphy, who contributed 12 goals and 13 assists. Lokke Stribos will be another welcomed familiar face after contributing 25 points last season, while captain Nikki Freeman’s return will also contribute to Iowa’s success.

Like so many other teams, it has been an offseason full of ups and downs for the Hawkeyes. After preparing for the fall season that looked ready to happen, the team has had to wait more than 400 days since its last competitive match because of the move to the spring.

Although there were plenty of obstacles thrown its way, Iowa has adapted well and looks prepared heading into its first weekend of games.

“What I can definitely say is how proud I am of this team, they have stayed the course through lots of ups and downs and pauses,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “We made progress, which was what was most exciting as a coaching staff to not know what we were going to be facing but made a lot of progress on the field within our team culture and leadership.”

Murphy, Stribos and junior defender Anthe Nijziel were recently nominated for the Big Ten’s preseason field hockey honors.

This spring, the team will play a condensed 14-game season, with its only games against Big Ten competition. Iowa’s first four games of the season will take place in Virginia Beach. Then, the remaining games will be played at campus venues the rest of the regular season.

This weekend, the team will open its season against Penn State and Indiana, who finished fifth and eight in the Big Ten last season, respectively. Because of the long layover and question marks around its competition, the team is looking to focus on themselves this opening weekend of play.

“My expectation right now is we go out and we play Iowa hockey and our style, and we stay true to what we’re about because we don’t know what anybody else is going to look because it’s been such a long time,” Cellucci said.

After an offseason full of challenges, the Hawkeyes now feel prepared enough to face any challenge that comes its way during the season. With the pandemic still ongoing and the possibility of schedule changes throughout the season present, the team will have to stay the course throughout.

“We’ve done a lot of work the past couple of months on just being really adaptive and to embrace the challenges that are happening,” Murphy said. “Who knows what’s going to happen, but whatever it is I’m sure the team will adapt quite well.”

Iowa will open the season on Saturday against Indiana at 11 a.m., then face off against Penn State the following day at 11:45 a.m. Both games can be streamed on BTN Plus.