No. 3 Iowa field hockey topples No. 1 North Carolina at home

The Hawkeyes secured their first victory over the Tar Heels since 2008 in front of a packed house at Grant Field.


Casey Stone

Iowa forward/midfielder Maddy Murphy tries to get position of the ball during the Iowa Field Hockey Big Ten/ACC Challenge game against Wake Forest on Aug. 27, 2021 at Grant Field. Iowa defeated Wake Forest 5-3.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Iowa field hockey’s Grant Field was packed to the brim on Sunday morning as the No. 3 Hawkeyes took on No. 1 North Carolina in a rematch of the NCAA Final Four.

With 814 supporters at the final match of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in Iowa City, the Hawkeyes were ready to put on a show with a 3-1 victory over the defending national champion Tar Heels — Iowa’s first victory over North Carolina since 2008.

“It was cool, I’ve never played in front of a crowd like that before,” senior goalkeeper Grace McGuire said. “It was really fun, I hope everyone enjoyed it and got to know a bit about field hockey.”

Iowa got off to a strong start in the first quarter behind the raucous Grant Field crowd. The Hawkeyes outshot the Tar Heels, 6-0, in the opening quarter while also drawing some penalty corners from North Carolina.

Early in the second quarter, fifth-year senior forward Maddy Murphy delivered the first goal of the game off an assist from fellow fifth-year senior midfielder Ellie Holley.

After Iowa’s goal, North Carolina swung the momentum the other way — the Tar Heels successfully defended a pair of penalty corners and got past McGuire to tie the game just before halftime.

That is, until senior Meghan Conroy stepped up off the bench to put the ball in the back of the net to give the Hawkeyes a 2-1 lead.

“Meg is a great utility player for us, and works so hard for her four years here,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “She’s always ready, and it just proves being ready on the bench and executing your role, and she was a shining example.”

North Carolina continued to press in search of an equalizer, pulling its goalkeeper for an extra forward midway through the fourth quarter. With eight-and-a-half minutes left in the match, however, Iowa delivered the final blow.

Holley battled through contact, sliding to finish off another counter-attack to seal the Hawkeye 3-1 win, sending the fans at Grant Field into a frenzy.

“It’s a tough group of girls and I wouldn’t mess with any single one of them,” McGuire said. “And we work hard for each other every single day.”

McGuire totaled nine saves on the day against North Carolina, a personal best in a single game.

“Grace is a stud, and we would not have had the win without her,” Conroy said. “She was making saves left and right and is such a smart player, always telling us what we need to do.”

Iowa started the season 2-0 for the second straight year after the Hawkeyes’ 5-3 win against No. 11 Wake Forest on Friday.

With No. 2 Michigan also winning its match against Wake Forest at Grant Field, it’s the first time event’s history that the Big Ten has gone undefeated in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Both Iowa and Michigan finished the weekend 2-0.

The Hawkeyes will make the trek to Boston next weekend for two more nonconference matchups. Iowa will open the weekend against New Hampshire on Saturday at 2 p.m. before facing Boston University Sunday at noon.