Iowa field hockey’s run ends in the NCAA Final Four

The No. 1 Tar Heels came out on top, 3-0.


Jeff Sigmund

Iowa players huddle before the field hockey game between Iowa and Michigan at Grant Field on Saturday, March 15, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Wolverines, 2-1, in a shootout.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

The No. 4 Iowa field hockey team could not come back from an early deficit against No. 1 North Carolina, as the Tar Heels beat the Hawkeyes, 3-0, in the NCAA Final Four on Friday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Iowa started the game quickly with two chances to score but didn’t convert.

After a solid start from the Hawkeyes, it was the Tar Heels that broke through first. Twenty-two minutes into the game, Katie Dixon scored and put North Carolina ahead. Just a few minutes later, the first lightning delay of the game struck, and the teams took cover.

After getting through the rest of the half, the second weather delay hit at halftime, and both teams were made to wait until the storm passed. The Hawkeyes tried to stay focused on the game during the breaks.

“The team stayed loose between sessions in the locker room and kept our morale high,” Iowa senior forward Maddy Murphy said. “I don’t think it hurt us too much, but it was still unfortunate.”

Coming out of the half, all the momentum was with North Carolina. In the third quarter, the Tar Heels got seven shots off and created two penalty corner opportunities. North Carolina converted both penalty corner chances.

The first goal came off a penalty corner nine minutes into the third quarter. After Iowa goalkeeper Grace McGuire made a good save, the ball landed right in front of North Carolina’s Mia Leonhart, who tucked the ball away and gave North Carolina the early advantage.

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The Tar Heels were not done yet, and with just under two minutes to go in the third quarter, Erin Matson delivered once again off the penalty corner to give North Carolina an insurmountable 3-0 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Iowa chased the game in the fourth quarter and created plenty of chances, but couldn’t find the back of the cage once, even with the five penalty corners the team created late on.

“Disappointed in the result, but North Carolina played a great game,” Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “A vein in our side all year is being able to finish, and we had some opportunities in the first quarter. I think if one of those had fallen in early it could have been a much different game.”

Iowa finishes the season with a 12-6 overall record. This was the first time the team has made it to the Final Four since 2008, and it could be used as another step forward for the program.

Even with the loss, the program still has plenty to look forward to. Every senior will be returning next year thanks to the extra year of eligibility the NCAA provided because of COVID-19. The Hawkeyes are excited to get to work soon and have another go at the national championship next season.

“Everyone is returning, we couldn’t be happier and we get a shot at North Carolina the first week of the season next year,” Cellucci said. “That’s going to be great motivation for the summer, and you haven’t seen the best of this team yet.”

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