Iowa field hockey downs Maryland, advances to Big Ten Tournament semifinals

The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 3-0, Wednesday thanks to the two-goal effort put forth by freshman forward Alex Wesneski.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa players celebrate their second goal of the game during the first quarter of the Big Ten field hockey tournament quarterfinals against No. 4 Maryland on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at Grant Field. Alex Wesneski scored seven minutes into the game with an assist from Esme Gibson. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 3-0. No. 5 Iowa will go on to play No. 1 Michigan tomorrow afternoon.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Led by 2020-21 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Anthe Nijziel, Iowa field hockey’s defense has been stout all year, surrendering less than one goal per game on average.

On Wednesday, the Hawkeyes’ defense shut Maryland out in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament at Grant Field in Iowa City, 3-0.

Iowa jumped out an early lead in Wednesday’s quarterfinal with some help from its offense. Within the first eight minutes of the contest, the Hawkeyes had hung two goals on the Terrapins.

The game-opening goal was scored by senior midfielder Ellie Holley. Freshman forward Alex Wesneski then followed Holley’s goal up with a score of her own.

“It was a dream start, our game plan was to start fast, not frantic,” Hawkeye head coach Lisa Cellucci said postgame. “We wanted to really try and get a goal before the end of the first quarter and we ended up getting two.”

In the second period, Wesneski seemingly put the game on ice, scoring her second goal of the contest to give Iowa a 3-0 lead.

“It was really great because we have been working on scoring early and scoring a lot, so it was really nice for that to come together right now,” Wesneski said.

Counting her two goals Wednesday, Wesneski has now scored three times this season. She’s also registered two assists on the year. 

“It’s awesome, just as a freshman, she’s been getting better and better every week of the season,” Cellucci said. “We know she has the skill, and she found herself in the right place at the right time with great execution.”

Sophomore Esme Gibson also played a pivotal role in Iowa’s offensive execution Wednesday, registering two assists in the Hawkeyes’ quarterfinal victory. 

Prior to the Hawkeyes’ tournament-opening matchup with the Terrapins, Gibson had not recorded a single assist in 2020-21.

“[Gibson] is a great ball distributor, and we have many of those across the field,” Wesneski said. “With [Gibson], we work on skimmering, and she did it really well today.”

Although Maryland was awarded four penalty corners in Wednesday’s game, the Hawkeyes successfully defended each one.

Junior goalkeeper Grace McGuire had an easy day in front of the net, as the Hawkeyes did not allow the Terrapins to attempt a single shot-on-goal.

In tomorrow’s Big Ten Tournament semifinals, Iowa will get its third crack at Michigan this season.

The Hawkeyes and Wolverines split their two regular season matchups, with Michigan claiming the first contest between the two squads, 1-0, and Iowa winning the second, 2-1.

This season, Big Ten Conference teams participated in doubleheaders every weekend. The first legs of the doubleheaders counted toward league standings and the second legs were accounted for in the national rankings.

Since Michigan defeated Iowa in the first leg of the regular season doubleheader between the two squads, the Wolverines hold a higher seed in the Big Ten Tournament than the Hawkeyes do.

Semifinal action between the fifth-seeded Hawkeyes and the top-seeded Wolverines begins at 4 p.m. Thursday. Per current University of Iowa Athletics’ policy, fans will be allowed to attend the matchup at 50 percent capacity.

The game will also air live on the Big Ten Network.