Iowa field hockey ready to compete against stacked Big Ten tournament field

Counting No. 1 Iowa, six of the nation’s top seven teams play in the Big Ten.


Casey Stone

Iowa defender Anthe Nijziel takes a shot on goal during the Iowa Field Hockey game against Ohio University on Sep. 10, 2021 at Grant Field. Iowa defeated Ohio 8-0. (Casey Stone/The Daily Iowan)

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

The 2021 Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament has already kicked off in Piscataway, New Jersey. The conference tourney’s quarterfinals were played Thursday.

Iowa’s first day of tournament action is Friday. The Hawkeyes received a bye in the quarterfinal round because they are the top seed in the bracket.

Iowa finished the regular season with 16-1 overall and 7-1 conference records. The Hawkeyes clinched the Big Ten’s regular season title Oct. 17, nearly three weeks before the league tournament began.

Because Iowa has found so much success this year, the Hawkeyes expect to have a large contingent of their fans supporting them in New Jersey.

“Our fanbase is going to be huge,” senior midfielder Ellie Holley said. “I know our guest pass list is already filling up.”

The Hawkeyes will be led in this year’s tournament by senior defender Anthe Nijziel, who was named both Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Wednesday.

The Hawkeyes’ head coach, Lisa Cellucci, was recently dubbed Big Ten Coach of the Year for the third consecutive season too.

Despite all their firepower, the Hawkeyes will still face a bevy of challenges in this year’s Big Ten tournament.

Six of the nation’s top seven teams play in the Big Ten: No.1 Iowa, No. 2 Michigan, No. 3 Rutgers, No. 5 Northwestern, No. 6 Maryland, and No. 7 Penn State.

No. 3 Rutgers’ Gianna Glatz actually split this season’s Big Ten Player of the Year Award with Nijziel. The Scarlet Knights are the No. 2 overall seed in this year’s Big Ten tournament. Rutgers is also the host of the 2021 Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament.

Penn State, Michigan, Northwestern, and Maryland are seeded third, fourth, fifth, and sixth, respectively.

Iowa was the only team that received a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal bye. So, while the Hawkeyes have rested, the rest of the league’s teams have been competing.

“It’s going to be so huge for us both physically and mentally to be able to go and watch the games and have that rest going into Friday’s semifinal,” Holley said. 

The No. 1 seed has won the Big Ten tournament in four out of the last five years.

Blocking the Hawkeyes’ path to a conference title is No. 2 Michigan — the 2020 Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed. The Wolverines are seeded fourth in this year’s league tourney.

Iowa defeated Michigan, 2-1, in a double overtime shootout on Oct. 15. The Hawkeyes and Wolverines will play a rematch this afternoon in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.

“It’s always hard to beat a team twice,” Cellucci said. “It’s really about taking care of those small details we could have done better, and that’s what we are focused on.”

Action between Iowa and Michigan will begin at 1 p.m. Friday afternoon and air live on the Big Ten Network.