Dunne shines in first season with Iowa field hockey

Thanks to her athleticism, freshman Harper Dunne has made an immediate impact on the pitch.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa midfielder Esme Gibson and Maryland midfielder Emma Deberdine run toward the ball during the first quarter of a field hockey game between Iowa and Maryland on Friday, April 2, 2021 at Grant Field. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Terrapins, 1-0.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

For Iowa field hockey freshman Harper Dunne, the transition from high school to college field hockey has been smooth. So far this season, the midfielder from Fort Worth, Texas, has regularly helped the Hawkeyes initiate their offense and snuff out opponent attacks.

According to Hawkeye head coach Lisa Cellucci, Dunne found success in college so quickly because she was so superbly conditioned right out of high school.

“What set Harper up for success right away was her fitness,” Cellucci said. “She came into Iowa City super fit and was top three in the team fitness test. She’s able to run with the fastest attackers in the country and has displayed a lot of poise.”

Dunne viewed her physical fitness as one of the few things she could control during the early portion of the COVID-19 pandemic when many athletic facilities and recreation centers were closed.

So, while Dunne couldn’t sharpen many of her tangible field hockey skills, she knew she could put a lot of work in to ensure that she was one of the fittest athletes on Cellucci’s team when she arrived in Iowa City.

“I knew the players were going to be incredible, so the thing I could control the most at home was ensuring I was entirely ready to handle things physically,” Dunne said.

Dunne said she has always been physically fit as she played soccer and went out for track in high school when she wasn’t playing field hockey.

As a high school soccer player, Dunne earned her fair share of awards, including all-region and all-conference honors.

Soccer benefitted Dunne beyond physical conditioning too. While field hockey and soccer are two completely different sports, they are similar as it pertains to tactics and gameplay.

“Being a soccer player my whole life allowed me to improve my game sense and my field awareness for field hockey,” Dunne said.

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Dunne said she was encouraged by the support she received from Cellucci’s coaching staff when she decided to keep playing both field hockey and soccer throughout high school.

While Dunne did have colleges offering her chances to play both sports post-high school, Dunne said she liked the field hockey offers she received more than the soccer offers.

In her first season as a Hawkeye, Dunne has started every game. Dunne does the little things that aren’t reflected on the stat sheet to help Iowa win, starting attacks by winning possession back for Iowa or making a pass that eventually leads to a goal.

Dunne and the No. 2 Hawkeyes will take the field next weekend in Evanston, Illinois, for a top-five showdown with No. 3 Northwestern.

The two squads are currently tied for second in the Big Ten Conference standings. The Hawkeyes and Wildcats’ two-game series next weekend will serve as their last before the regular season ends and the 2021 Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament begins.

Iowa and Northwestern trail only North Carolina in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s top 25 poll, and four of the poll’s top ten teams hail from the Big Ten.

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