Holley, Iowa field hockey in pursuit of history

Holley and the Hawkeyes are 14-0 this season and No. 1 in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Poll.


Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Ellie Holley has never been much of a goal-scorer. Before Iowa field hockey’s 2021-22 campaign kicked off, the fifth-year senior midfielder had never scored more than four goals in a season.

This year, however, Holley has put the ball in the back of the net a whopping eight times in just 14 games. She currently leads the Hawkeyes in goals scored. Holley’s eight goals rank sixth in the Big Ten Conference among individual scorers.

Unlike goal-scoring, Holley has always had a knack for distributing the ball. During her time in the Black and Gold, Holley has recorded 31 total assists. In just under five full years at Iowa, Holley has played in 91 games.

The most assists Holley has ever produced in a season is 11 in 2019-20.

As of Sunday, Holley leads the Big Ten in assists this year with eight. With three regular season games and the entire postseason remaining, Holley is on track to eclipse the number of assists she racked up in 2019-20.

“She came [to Iowa] as more of a midfielder with a defensive role, and each year has had more offensive output,” Iowa field hockey coach Lisa Cellucci said. “She has come up with what is needed in the moment of games and been fantastic in practice.”

The tale of Holley’s increased offensive production can’t be told, in full, via the stat sheet. Holley has propelled Iowa to three key victories with clutch goals late in the fourth quarter.

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Against then-No. 1 North Carolina on Aug. 29 in particular, Holley’s late-game heroics were on full display.

Iowa held a 2-1 lead over the Tar Heels with about 18 minutes left in the game. Holley then put the ball in the back of the net with 8:36 remaining in the contest to give Iowa an insurmountable 3-1 lead. After that, neither the Tar Heels nor the Hawkeyes scored in the game.

“We try not to make things too complex up front,” Holley told The Daily Iowan on Oct. 5. “The defense are the ones that are creating those goals.”

Holley doesn’t just lead Iowa on the field either. Off the field, Holley’s teammates and coaches call her a team player, leader, and role model. Holley has even been referred to as Iowa’s “team mom,” with the ability to take care of herself and teammates, when necessary.

“Ellie’s one of my best friends and is such an incredible field hockey player, and is so selfless on and off the field,” fifth-year senior forward Maddy Murphy said. “She brings us all together because she is wise beyond her years.”

Holley and the Hawkeyes are currently in pursuit of a national championship, sitting at 14-0 overall this season. Iowa won its last and only national championship in 1986.

The Hawkeyes biggest test this year will come Friday, as they welcome No. 2 Michigan to Grant Field in Iowa City. Both the Hawkeyes and Wolverines are undefeated this season.

Michigan started the 2021-22 season at No.1 in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Poll. Iowa passed Michigan in the rankings on Sept. 28.