Iowa field hockey falls to Michigan in Big Ten Tournament semifinals

The Wolverines defeated the Hawkeyes in shutout fashion, 2-0, to advance to the Big Ten Tournament finals.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa defender Anthe Nijziel sweeps the ball during the third quarter of the Big Ten field hockey tournament semifinals against No. 1 Michigan on Thursday, April 22, 2021 at Grant Field. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Wolverines, 0-2. Michigan will go on to play against No. 7 Ohio State in the championships on Saturday.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Without its top offensive option — senior forward Maddy Murphy — Iowa field hockey fell to No. 2 Michigan, 2-0, in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals Thursday at Grant Field in Iowa City.

Murphy, who has scored seven times this season and 43 times on her career, sat out Thursday’s game with a non-COVID-19-related illness. Murphy did not make an appearance at Grant Field on Thursday.

Iowa struggled offensively without Murphy. In total, the Hawkeyes took just six shots against the Wolverines — one shy of the season-low five shots Iowa put up against Penn State on Feb. 28.

While Hawkeye head coach Lisa Cellucci did acknowledge that Murphy’s absence was a factor postgame, she didn’t think it was the sole reason Iowa lost Thursday.

“It definitely played a part,” Cellucci said. “She’s our go-to person at the front of the field and is a part of all the set pieces. Not the reason we didn’t get the result. We could’ve found a different way to win, and we didn’t.”

Unlike Iowa, Michigan applied pressure offensively throughout Thursday’s contest. Hawkeye goalkeeper Grace Mcguire had to make two saves in the first period alone.

After a scoreless first period, Michigan broke the game’s tie in the second, as Wolverine midfielder Sofia Southam deflected a long pass into the back of the net to give Michigan a 1-0 lead at the break.

Counting Thursday’s game, the Hawkeyes have not come back from a deficit of any size in 2021.

With just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter, Michigan seemingly punched its ticket to the Big Ten Tournament finals, scoring off a penalty corner to take a 2-0 lead over the Hawkeyes.

In the fourth period, Iowa was rewarded four penalty corners. The Hawkeyes, however, did not cash in on any of those scoring chances.

According to Cellucci, the Wolverines have improved since the Hawkeyes last played them March 14.

“When we played Michigan they had only played one game, so they’ve gotten better,” Cellucci said. “They have an outstanding team and they are peaking at the right time.”

The Hawkeyes’ Big Ten Tournament semifinal game could prove to be their last of the season, as their fate now sits in the hands of the NCAA Division I Women’s Field Hockey Championships selection committee.

Because of COVID-19, the 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Field Hockey Championships’ field shrunk from its usual 16 teams to 12. With nine conference champions receiving automatic tournament bids, that means just three at-large bids are up for grabs.

Iowa is currently ranked fourth in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association rankings, behind No. 1 North Carolina, No. 2 Michigan, and No. 3 Louisville.

“We’ve been in the top four of the country all season long, but if Michigan wins this tournament, we have a slim chance. If they don’t, we won’t be in,” Cellucci said. 

The 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Field Hockey Championships field will be announced April 24 at 10 p.m.