No. 1 Iowa field hockey to host No. 2 Michigan at Grant Field

Both the Hawkeyes and Wolverines are undefeated on the season, and will match up on Friday in Iowa City.


Hannah Kinson

Iowa forward Leah Zellner blocks Michigan fullback Halle O’Neil during the fourth quarter of the Big Ten field hockey tournament semifinals between No. 5 Iowa and No. 1 Michigan on Thursday, April 22, 2021 at Grant Field. With five minutes left of the game, Iowa pulled their goalkeeper to replace the position with another player on offense. The Hawkeyes were defeated by the Wolverines, 0-2. Michigan will go on to play against No. 7 Ohio State in the championships on Saturday.

No. 1 Iowa field hockey will have its biggest test of the season so far against No. 2 Michigan this weekend.

The 11-0 Wolverines and the 14-0 Hawkeyes are the final remaining undefeated Division I field hockey teams. The duo cemented themselves as the two best teams in the country, as every other team in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Poll has lost at least twice.

The Friday showdown between the Hawkeyes and Wolverines will have implications in the polls and the Big Ten standings, and the winner could see an undefeated regular season in their midst as the postseason begins to loom.

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But despite the attention surrounding the game, the Hawkeyes are calm and composed.

“It’s going to be really exciting, but we have to treat it like any other game,” fifth-year senior forward Maddy Murphy said. “It’s going to be a challenge, but we are really looking forward to it.”

The Wolverines have had their fair share of close calls this season to maintain their undefeated record. Five of Michigan’s past six victories have been by one goal, including a 3-2 win over Northwestern in double overtime.

The stretch has included wins over No. 3 Louisville, but also close wins against unranked Kent State and Cornell

The Hawkeyes know they’ll be in for a fight against Michigan.

“We just need to be really gritty and play until the final minute,” junior midfielder Esme Gibson said. “It’s going to be a real battle, so just putting 100 percent in and everyone being ready for whatever happens.”

Iowa will face the reigning National Defensive Player of the Week in Michigan senior goalkeeper Anna Spieker.

Spieker has been rock solid for the Wolverines throughout the season, recording 12 saves in two games against Louisville and Northwestern. The goalkeeper has allowed just nine goals in 12 games.

Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes will be looking to keep up their strong offensive attack. Junior midfielder Esme Gibson took home Big Ten Player of the Week honors this week after scoring three goals in two games.

“She’s a workhorse and doesn’t get the recognition she deserves,” Murphy said. “So, it’s fantastic seeing her get on the scoresheet and showing how she is a key player for us.”

Former Hawkeye and current Michigan head coach Marcia Pankratz will also make a return to Grant Field in her 22nd season with the Wolverines.

Pankratz is the third-leading scorer in Iowa program history and led the Hawkeyes to a national championship in 1984.

“We’re very good friends, she called this morning and we talk at least once a week,” Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci said of Pankratz Wednesday. “She’s a fantastic representative of our program, so it’s awesome to have her back on campus.”

The Hawkeyes face the Wolverines at 2 p.m. at Grant Field. The match will be aired live on Big Ten Network.

Following the Wolverines, the Hawkeyes only have two regular season matches remaining: Ohio State and Northwestern. The Big Ten Tournament begins Nov. 4 in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

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