Smith lifts Iowa field hockey past American in first round of NCAA Tournament

Senior forward Ciara Smith notched two goals in the fourth quarter at Grant Field to push the third-seeded Hawkeyes to the Elite Eight.


Dimia Burrell

Iowa forward Ciara Smith and midfielder Lieve Schalk celebrate the first Iowa goal during the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Field Hockey Tournament between Iowa and American University at Grant Field in Iowa City on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Eagles, 3-2.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

Iowa field hockey found itself down, 2-1, against American University going into the fourth quarter of Friday’s NCAA Tournament first round matchup at Grant Field.

With just 15 minutes left to save their season, the Hawkeyes had to leave it all on the line.

“I was not emotional in the moment,” senior forward Ciara Smith said of the late deficit. “You want to be as clear headed as you can and play simple.”

And Iowa found a way to take the victory in the final quarter. Smith tapped in back-to-back goals for the Hawkeyes as Iowa held on to win, 3-2, over American.

“Their resilience was unbelievable, and the way they went on the attack right after going down was amazing,” Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci said. 

Iowa scored the first goal of the matchup in the first quarter, as senior midfielder Lokke Stribos found the back of the net off a penalty corner.

Iowa went into halftime with a one-goal lead, but the Eagles put on a clinic in the third quarter. American worked through the snowy Iowa City conditions to notch two goals on the Hawkeyes.

But with 404 fans clad in Black and Gold, Iowa wrestled momentum back to take the victory.

“We played our hearts out,” American head coach Steve Jennings said. “It was tough to get forward early, but we had a brilliant effort in the third quarter. Iowa’s a great team and it just wasn’t enough for us.” 


The Hawkeyes braved the elements to snap their two-game losing streak heading into the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa played in snowy conditions for the first time this season, as the flurries made for slippery and fast conditions during the matchup.

The snow picked up during the second quarter and coated the playing surface, but the Hawkeyes were unbothered by the weather.

“The snow helped us a little bit,” Cellucci said. “the team seemed to like it and made it a non-issue.”


Smith has been a consistent contributor for the Hawkeyes over the four years of her Iowa career, with five career goals in the NCAA Tournament.

Today, Smith tapped in crosses from fifth-year seniors Ellie Holley and Maddy Murphy for back-to-back goals on two shots.

“I saw the determination from my teammates and I just wanted to be where I needed to be,” Smith said. “There’s something about the air in the postseason, I love the grind and the pressure and being there for my teammates as much as I can.”

Last season, Smith scored in Iowa’s 3-1 victory over Northwestern in the Elite Eight.


The Hawkeyes will make their third straight quarterfinal appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Northwestern took down North Carolina, 2-0, at Grant Field on Friday afternoon. So, the Hawkeyes will face the team that ended their 2021 undefeated regular season.

The Elite Eight game between Iowa and Northwestern will start at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Grant Field.

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