Cafone, Birch Highlight All-Big Ten Honorees

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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa field hockey senior Natalie Cafone was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and freshman Katie Birch was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, the conference announced Wednesday. It marks the first time in program history the Hawkeyes have won both offensive player and freshman of the year. Cafone also earned first team All-Big Ten accolades, while Birch and senior Chandler Ackers received second team all-conference recognition.  Senior Sophie Plasteras is Iowa’s Sportsmanship Award honoree.
Cafone — a three-time first team All-Big Ten honoree — is the third Hawkeye in as many years to be named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year. She also earned the honor in 2014, while former Hawkeye Stephanie Norlander won the award in 2015. Cafone is one of three Hawkeyes to earn the award in multiple years (Erica Richards in 1986-87; Kristy Gleason in 1992-93).
A native of Fairfield, New Jersey, Cafone has started 64 games in her Hawkeye career, collecting 68 goals, 23 assists and 159 points. The two-time NFHCA All-American and NFHCA All-West Region selection is tied for sixth (Ellen Egan) on Iowa’s all-time goals list. Cafone currently leads the Big Ten in goals (20), goals per game (1.11), shots (87), shots per game (4.83), and points (48).
Birch is just the fifth Hawkeye in program history to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and the first since 2013 (Norlander). She started all 18 games for the Hawkeyes this season, tallying 12 goals, four assists, and 28 points. Birch is currently ranked second in the conference in shots (83) and third in shots per game (4.61).
A native of York, England, Birch was the only freshman in the Big Ten named to an all-conference team. She earned back-to-back Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors on Aug. 30 and Sept. 6. She scored her first career hat trick in Iowa’s 11-0 victory over Saint Louis on Sept. 4.
Ackers earns her second straight all-conference honor. The senior has started 54 games in her four-year career, tallying 18 goals, 20 assists, and 56 points. She matched single-season career highs in goals (8) and assists (7) this season. Ackers also notched her first career hat trick in Iowa’s win over Central Michigan on Oct. 7.
A native of White Haven, Pennsylvania, Ackers has earned second team NFHCA All-Region and All-Big Ten Tournament accolades in her career. She is a two-time member of the NFHCA Academic Squad and Big Ten All-Academic Team.
The 15th-ranked Hawkeyes (12-6; 4-4) open Big Ten Tournament play against No. 12 Northwestern on Thursday. The contest begins at 4:30 p.m. (CT) in College Park, Maryland. It will air live on the Big Ten Network.
2016 All-Big Ten Teams
Player of the Year: Welma Luus, MD
Offensive Player of the Year: Natalie Cafone, IOWA
Defensive Player of the Year: Grace Balsdon, MD
Freshman of the Year: Katie Birch, IOWA
Coach of the Year: Charlene Morett-Curtiss, PSU
First Team
Isabel Flens, M, Sr., NU
Kate Barber, M, Sr., IND
Aurelia Meijer, M, So., PSU
Katie Trombetta, D, Jr., MICH
Moira Putsch, F, So., PSU
Grace Balsdon, D, Sr., MD
Simone Vagnoni, D, Jr., MSU
Sophia Miller, D, Jr., NU
Noëlle Rother, GK, So., IND
Second Team
Maddy Humphrey, F, Jr., OSU
Alyssa Bull, M, Sr., RU
Katie Birch, D, Fr., IOWA
Carly Bennett, F, Jr., MICH
Kendal Anderson, F, Jr., MSU
Lein Holsboer, M, Jr., MD
Dominique Masters, M, Sr., NU
Skyler Fretz, D, Jr., PSU
Chandler Ackers, D, Sr., IOWA
Mollie Getzfread, M, Sr., IND
Sam Swenson, GK, Jr., MICH
Sportsmanship Award Honorees
Mollie Getzfread, IND
Sophie Plasteras, IOWA
Brooke Adler, MD
Casie Ammerman, MICH
Kristin Matula, MSU
Maggie Fitzgerald, NU
Liz Tamburro, OSU
Kirsten Gochnauer, PSU
Devon Freshnock, RU
Unanimous selections in ALL CAPS