Iowa field hockey eyeing first Final Four appearance since 2008

With a win this Sunday, the Hawkeyes could lock up their 12th-ever Final Four berth.

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Hannah Kinson

Iowa midfielder Harper Dunne runs up the field with the ball during the fourth quarter of the Big Ten field hockey tournament quarterfinals against No. 4 Maryland on Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at Grant Field. The Hawkeyes defeated the Terrapins, 3-0. No. 5 Iowa will go on to play No. 1 Michigan tomorrow afternoon.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter


Last week, Iowa field hockey fell to Michigan in the semifinal round of the 2021 Big Ten tournament.

The loss left Iowa’s postseason dreams in the hands of the 2020-21 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship’s selection committee.

This year’s NCAA tournament field features just 12 teams because of COVID-19. In a typical season, 16 squads make the NCAA field hockey tournament.

As has been the case in previous years, nine conference champions automatically qualified for the 2020-21 NCAA tournament. So, just three at-large NCAA tournament bids were up for grabs this season, compared to the usual seven.

After they beat Iowa, Michigan went on to win the 2021 Big Ten tournament, paving a path to an at-large bid for the Hawkeyes.

When the NCAA tournament’s field was announced April 24, the Hawkeyes’ name was called.

“We were so nervous because even though we knew we deserved to be in the tournament, we realized that by not winning the Big Ten Championship, we messed up and may have not gotten in,” freshman defender Harper Dunne said.

As a bit of a surprise to Iowa’s players and coaching staff, the Hawkeyes not only made the tournament via at-large bid, but they also earned a top-four seed and a first-round bye.

“It feels good to have another chance to play the level of hockey I know I can play, and I know a lot of the team felt the same way,” Dunne said.

With the NCAA tournament selection show now behind them, the Hawkeyes’ attention will shift toward their first national tournament game of the season.

In the NCAA tournament’s second round, Iowa will take on the winner of Friday afternoon’s Northwestern-Delaware matchup.

Delaware enters this year’s NCAA tournament fresh off a win in the Colonial Athletic Association’s championship tournament. The Blue Hens entered the CAA’s championship tournament as the No. 3 seed.

Northwestern qualified for the 2021 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championships via at-large bid.

During the regular season, the Hawkeyes lost both their matchups against the Wildcats.

RELATED: How a gap year brought Iowa field hockey’s Murphy to Iowa

“They have to get past a good Delaware team, but we would love the chance to play Northwestern again and put a complete game together,” Hawkeye head coach Lisa Cellucci said.

Iowa field hockey is no stranger to NCAA tournament success. Counting this season, the Hawkeyes have appeared in the NCAA tournament on 25 separate occasions.

Iowa has also made the tournament’s Elite Eight 18 times.

Iowa won its only NCAA tournament title back in 1986.

In 2018, Iowa field hockey made its first NCAA tournament appearances since 2012. The following season, the Hawkeyes played their way into the Elite Eight via a first-round victory over Duke.

With a win this Sunday, Iowa field hockey could lock up its 12th Final Four berth.

Hawkeye forward Maddy Murphy is expected to play in Iowa’s Elite Eight game Sunday. The senior from Tasmania missed the Hawkeyes’ Big Ten Tournament semifinal game with a non-COVID-19-related illness.

Iowa’s Elite Eight game kicks off a 2 p.m. Sunday and can be streamed on NCAA.com.

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