Nikki Freeman’s rise as an Iowa field hockey player

With her hard work and consistency on the pitch, the midfielder has evolved into an important piece and a leader for Iowa.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa midfielder Nikki Freeman passes the ball during the second quarter of a field hockey game against Maryland on Friday, April 2, 2021 at Grant Field. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Terrapins, 1-0.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Sometimes, the players who show don’t show up on the stat sheet are the ones that matter the most.

That’s exactly the case for Iowa field hockey senior midfielder and captain Nikki Freeman, who has been a vital part of Iowa field hockey for the past four seasons.

Freeman came into Iowa with plenty of accolades, winning all-New Jersey first team while also having competed at the 2015 Junior Olympics.

Those experiences certainly helped Freeman adjust to the high level of Iowa field hockey immediately, as Freeman started all but one game her freshman year and helped the team in any way she could.

Freeman has had a team first approach since day one, as Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci was able to move her around anywhere in the midfield knowing she would be relied on.

“She’s been a fantastic person to have within the program the past four years,” Cellucci said. “We were able to move her around because of how flexible she is and the skillset she possesses. This year she has been an anchor in our midfield and has been so poised.”

She started nearly every game during her sophomore and junior seasons, grabbing a few points while helping to do much of the dirty work in the team and has continued to improve throughout her time as a Hawkeye.
In the spring 2021 season, she has been one of the first names on the team sheet each week as she plays in a more consistent role this season.

The New Jersey native has ascended into the captaincy this season.

“I’ve always been more of a lead by example type by always working super hard on the field,” Freeman said. “I may not be the most vocal person, but I lead through example with my work ethic and encourage my teammates to do the same.”

Senior midfielder Ellie Holley is Freeman’s roommate and has shared a close bond ever since freshman year when the two came to the Iowa program together.

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The pair have leaned on each other throughout their time at Iowa and their bond extends beyond the sport. Both Freeman and Holley have the same major and play close together positionally on the pitch.

“We’ve been inseparable for four years, and on and off the field we’ve relied on each other,” Holley said. “It’s been really fun with our connection off the field to play together.”

Freeman’s younger sister, Sammie Freeman, is currently a freshman on the team, meaning the pair have been able to play with each other for the first time ever because of their age difference. Freeman has been grateful for the opportunity to play with her and grow closer in their time together in Iowa City.

The sisters are a long way from home, so having Sammie Freeman in Iowa has been a boost this season.

“Getting to play together this year has been super fun,” Freeman said. “Especially because we’re far from home. So being able to have some family here to spend time with has been really nice.”

As the team turns its attention to the postseason with two more regular season games left, Freeman is eager to have another go at the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAAs. The unselfish midfielder is ready to help her teammates win and make a deep run in her last season as a Hawkeye.

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