No. 3 Iowa field hockey looking forward to rematch against No. 1 North Carolina

Iowa will take on three-time reigning national champion North Carolina in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge as a rematch of the 2021 NCAA Final Four.


Hannah Kinson

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

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

After an offense-heavy 5-3 win over No. 11 Wake Forest Friday to open the season, No. 3 Iowa field hockey will now turn its attention to No. 1 North Carolina in a rematch of the 2021 NCAA Final Four. 

Iowa showed its offensive skills against Wake Forest, taking 13 shots with five different players recording a goal in the match. Fifth-year senior midfielders Ellie Holley and Maddy Murphy also contributed two assists each.

The Hawkeyes struck early against the Demon Deacons, contributing three goals in the first quarter of the match. Iowa freshman Annika Herbine, making the first collegiate start of her career, also notched her first goal as a Hawkeye.

But the Hawkeyes will still be looking to clean things up on defense before they take on the reigning national champion.

“We just needed to stick to our game plan but we found a way to score in key moments,” head coach Lisa Celluci said after the Hawkeyes’ match against Wake Forest Friday. “What’s most exciting to the coaches is we’re so much better than what we showed today, but we played a really quality opponent today, too.” 

Iowa gave up three goals to the Demon Deacons all on penalty corners — an unusual sight for the Hawkeye defense. In 18 games in 2020-21, Iowa’s defense recorded eight shutouts and allowed just 14 goals. Senior defender Anthe Nijziel, the reigning Big Ten Player and Defensive Player of the Year, anchors the Hawkeye defense.

RELATED: No. 3 Iowa field hockey downs No. 11 Wake Forest, 5-3

In the opening game of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at Grant Field in Iowa City, No. 2 Michigan bested No. 1 North Carolina, 2-1, in a rematch of the NCAA Championship game. The Wolverines took an early 2-0 lead and held on to their strong start to overtake the Tar Heels.

And Cellucci was taking notes on the Wolverines’ offense scheme.

“Michigan played a fantastic game against [North Carolina Friday] and had some timely goals,” Cellucci said. “So, we’re going to have a similar offensive game plan, but we’re going to have to clean up the defense.” 

Iowa and North Carolina have frequent matchups, as the Hawkeyes and Tar Heels have met each other in the past three NCAA Tournaments.

In the all-time series between the two programs, North Carolina holds a 31-3 advantage over Iowa. The Hawkeyes’ last two exits in the NCAA Tournament — the 2019 Elite Eight and spring 2021 Final Four — have come at the hands of the Tar Heels.

In Iowa’s first Final Four appearance since 2008, North Carolina took down the Hawkeyes, 3-0, on the Tar Heels’ home turf after two lightning delays.

Now, Iowa will be looking for its first win against North Carolina since the 2008 season.

“They’re going to have a lot of fuel in them against us on Sunday,” midfielder Ellie Holley said. “It’s great to put some goals away, but it’s a new day and a different game.”

Iowa’s match against North Carolina starts at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Grant Field. It can also be streamed on BTN+.

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