Iowa field hockey reignites national championship chase

After nearly a year off, Iowa field hockey could win its second-ever NCAA title with two more wins in 2020-21.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa midfielder Ellie Holley waits for the ball during a field hockey game against Maryland on Sunday, April 4, 2021.

Coming off a Big Ten Tournament win in 2019, the Iowa field hockey team was forced to delay nearly an entire year of progress during 2020. The limitations of the pandemic interrupted training, team development, and championship plans, but ultimately brought the team closer together during an extended offseason.

A third of the team is made up of players from countries other than the U.S. Four of those international athletes reflected on the struggles and benefits of playing a spring season, while balancing a life halfway across the globe. Forward Maddy Murphy, one of five children in her family, is from a small town in northern Tasmania, and midfielder Ellie Holley, one of three daughters, is from a city in southern England. With an extra year of eligibility, both seniors will graduate in December after the fall 2021 season. Living about an hour away from Holley’s city, sophomore midfielder Esme Gibson is from a small town in the hilly midlands of England, and junior defender Anthe Nijziel is from the southern part of the Netherlands. Although their families are across the ocean, these athletes have found a home at the University of Iowa.

“To talk about how COVID kind of changed, it was just a lot of sacrifice,” Holley said. “We have a lot of like COVID team rules, and I just think that shows the commitment of the team, how much we wanted a season. And how committed our team is to supporting each other and protecting each other while also just trying to keep on our goals of trying to go all the way.”