No. 6 Iowa field hockey looking for revenge against No. 1 Northwestern

The Hawkeyes will take on the top-ranked Wildcats in a rematch of last season’s Elite Eight matchup.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa defender Anthe Nijziel passes the ball during a field hockey match between No. 6 Iowa and No. 22 Massachusetts at Grant Field in Iowa City on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022. Nijziel recorded one goal in the game. The Hawkeyes defeated the Minutewomen, 2-0.

Grant Hall, Sports Reporter

Last season, the No. 1 Iowa field hockey team snapped a program-record win streak to Northwestern. 

After a 16-0 start, the upstart Wildcats took down the undefeated Hawkeyes, 3-2 at Grant Field on Oct. 29. Following the loss, the Hawkeyes dropped three of their last four games — including a first-round exit in the Big Ten Tournament.

Iowa drew Northwestern as an opponent in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Once again, the Hawkeyes fell short, losing 1-0.

On Friday, the Hawkeyes will have an opportunity to break their two-game losing streak to the Wildcats. Undefeated, top-ranked Northwestern will play host to No. 5 Iowa at Lakeside Field in Evanston, Illinois.

Northwestern boasts an 8-0 record this season, including wins over No. 9 Virginia, No. 11 Liberty, and No. 8 Princeton.

Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci said her squad is more than familiar with the Wildcats, and she understands this game has a little more meaning than any other games so far this season.

Iowa and Northwestern play in a closed scrimmage ahead of every season.

“We probably know Northwestern better than anybody,” Cellucci said. “They are fantastic, No. 1 in the country, and we had a great exhibition match against them earlier in August. We feel like we match up with them quite well.”

Cellucci stressed the importance of team defense against Northwestern’s high-scoring offense. The Wildcats boast the fifth-most goals in the NCAA this season, with 29 in eight games.

“They’re lethal in transition, but we play fantastic team defense,” Cellucci said. “It’s going to be a matter of who can get on the board and then be able to finish the game on top. They have world class goal scorers, so top to bottom, our defense will have to be fantastic.”

RELATED: Iowa field hockey extends win streak, beats Indiana at home

To stop Northwestern’s high-octane offense, and Wildcats forward Bente Baekers, is the “Great Wall of Iowa” defense. Baekers leads the NCAA in goals per game, netting 13 goals in eight games for a 1.62 goal per game average.

The Hawkeye back line stars two-time Big Ten Player of the Year Anthe Nijziel, fifth-year senior Lokke Stribos, and goalie Grace McGuire holding down the fort. The team sports the seventh-best scoring margin in the nation and has pitched three shutouts during its current five-game win streak.

This week, the Hawkeyes have a slight advantage over Northwestern with an extended recovery period. Iowa did not schedule its typical Sunday game last weekend, giving the team an opportunity to rest and recuperate before its biggest challenge of the season.

“We’re going to treat this week as a two-game weekend,” Cellucci said after the Hawkeyes’ Sept. 16 victory over Indiana. “On Sunday, we’ll play a bit and watch some film. We’ll have our normal prep for Northwestern, because we want to try to keep it as consistent as possible, but it does provide us with a little more rest time than a Sunday game would give us.”