The seventh-ranked University of Iowa field hockey team finished the 2018 season at 14-7 (4-4), including a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes began the season in Chapel Hill, North Caro- lina, at the Big Ten/ACC Challenge where they went 1-1 against two top-15 teams. Iowa then went on a six-game winning streak in nonconference action, which featured a four-game shutout streak. The Hawkeyes began the conference slate with a 3-0 win over Indiana and finished 4-4 in the Big Ten to earn a six seed via a tiebreaker at the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes made a run to the Big Ten Championship, knocking off third-seeded Penn State and second-seeded Michigan, before falling to top-seeded Maryland in the conference championship. Iowa’s postseason was extended to the NCAA Tournament — the program’s 23rd appearance — in a rematch against Wake Forest after the Hawkeyes claimed an at-large bid.
• Iowa’s 14 wins were the most since 2011.
• The Hawkeyes reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012, which marked Lisa Cellucci’s first appearance as head coach.
• Iowa’s six-game winning streak from Aug. 31 to Sept. 16 was its longest since 2012.
• The Hawkeye defense recorded four straight shutouts for the first time since 2000.
• Iowa posted seven wins over top-25 opponents: No. 14 Wake Forest, No. 25 California, No. 23 Ohio State, No. 21 Stanford, No. 6/7 Penn State, and No. 7 Michigan. Iowa’s two wins over Penn State were the first since 2014, while the Hawkeyes beat Michigan for the first time since 2013.
• The Hawkeyes became the first ever six seed to advance to the Big Ten Championship game.
• Iowa was 9-0 when scoring at least three goals.
• The Hawkeyes went 6-2 at home with losses against top-10 teams in Michigan and Maryland.
• Sophomore Maddy Murphy led the team in goals (13), points (33), and game-winning goals (4). Murphy’s 13 goals tied for the fourth most in the conference, while her 33 points tied for fifth most in the conference.
• Junior Katie Birch led the team in assists (10) and shots (56), and was second on the team with 26 points. Birch’s 10 assists were the fourth most in the Big Ten.
• Junior Sophie Sunderland’s seven goals, five assists, and 19 points were third most on the team.
• Junior goalkeeper Leslie Speight was 14-7 and led the Big Ten with seven shutouts, while only allowing 23 goals in 21 games, the second best goals against average in the conference and
sixth best in the country. Speight recorded 60 saves along with a .723 save percentage. Speight recorded a career-high 10 saves in Iowa’s 3-2 win No. 6 Penn State.
• Murphy, Birch, and Sunderland all recorded hat tricks this season. Birch registered her fourth career hat trick in Iowa’s 6-0 win over Dartmouth. Next game, Sunderland posted her first career hat trick in Iowa’s 7-1 win over Ball State. Murphy’s first career hat trick came at home against No. 6 Penn State in Iowa’s 3-2 win.
BIG TEN TOURNAMENT RECAP
Entering the Big Ten Tournament as a six seed via tiebreaker, the Hawkeyes took down two top-10 opponents en route to a runner-up finish. In the quarterfinals, Iowa moved passed third-seeded Penn State in double overtime thanks to Anthe Nijziel’s game-winning goal in the 85th minute. The Hawkeyes kept the momentum going in the semifinals, scoring two first-half goals against second- seeded Michigan to hold on to a 2-1 victory and advance to the Big Ten finals against top-seeded Maryland. In a back and forth game, Iowa registered six-of-nine shots on goal and nearly came back from a 2-0 deficit, but fell 2-1 in a rainy Big Ten Championship. Iowa’s second-place finish was its best since 2013. Sophomore Ellie Holley and freshman Anthe Nijziel earned Big Ten All-Tournament team honors.
Six Hawkeyes earned postseason awards.
• Sophomore Maddy Murphy was a NFHCA third team All-American, NFHCA first team All-West Region, and first team All-Big Ten selection.
• Junior Katie Birch was a NFHCA second team All-American, NFHCA first team All-West Region, and second team All-Big Ten selection.
• Murphy and Birch became the 91st and 92nd national All-Americans in program history
• Junior Sophie Sunderland was a NFHCA second team All-West Region and second team All-Big Ten selection.
• Freshman Anthe Nijziel and sophomore Ellie Holley were NFHCA second team All-West region selections.
• Senior Riley Kniptash was named Iowa’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award honoree.
• Iowa’s coaching staff was recognized as the West Region Coaching Staff of the Year.
The Hawkeyes finished the 2018 season ranked seventh in the final Penn Monto/NFHCA Rankings, which is the first time Iowa has finished inside the top 10 to end the season since 2008. Iowa was ranked 20th in the initial preseason poll, before moving up 13 spots throughout the season. The Hawkeyes spent two weeks in the top 20, three weeks in the top 15, and the final six weeks in the top 10.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
In a conference that featured seven top-25 and five NCAA Tournament teams, Iowa finished its league slate at .500 (4-4). Including the postseason, Iowa has faced 14 top-25 opponents, going 7-7 with two wins over Penn State. The Hawkeyes were 4-6 against six teams who qualified for the NCAA Tournament. All seven of Iowa’s losses this season were from ranked opponents with six of them coming by one goal.
GREAT WALL OF IOWA
Iowa’s defense was stout all season, allowing only 23 goals in 21 games for a 1.10 goals against average, which is second best in the Big Ten and sixth best in the country. With junior goalkeeper Leslie Speight in goal, the Hawkeye defense recorded a Big Ten best seven shutouts, which is tied for the fifth most nationally. Iowa’s defense stifled opponents, limiting them to an average of 6.4 shots per game to Iowa’s 13.1 shots per game. The Hawkeyes doubled opponents in shots (276 to 135) and nearly did the same with penalty corners (121 to 72).
Seven of eight freshman saw the field this sea- son with many playing a pivotal part in Iowa’s success. Freshmen Anthe Nijziel and Lokke Stri- bos started all 21 games and anchored Iowa’s dominant defense. In Iowa’s 3-2 quarterfinal win over Penn State, Nijziel, who earned Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week on Sept. 17, recorded four points on one goal and two assists. Nijziel earned All-Big Ten Tournament team honors after helping lead Iowa to its best finish in the Big Ten Tournament since 2013. Nijziel finished the season with five goals and four assists. Stribos scored her first Hawkeye goal at home against No. 25 California and finished the season with four assists. Freshmen accounted for seven goals and eight assists this season.
SHARING THE WEALTH
Seven Hawkeyes scored at least four goals, while 11 different Hawkeyes scored a goal this season. Of Iowa’s 51 goals, 41 were assisted on. Katie Birch led the team with 10 assists, the fourth most in the Big Ten, while six other Hawkeyes had at least three assists.
NATION’S BEST CONFERENCE
Seven Big Ten schools — No. 2 Maryland, No. 7 IOWA, No. 8 Michigan, No. 9 Penn State, No. 11 Rutgers, No. 21 Ohio State, and No. 25 North- western — were ranked in the final Penn Monto/ NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll. Iowa moved up 13 spots since being ranked 20th in the preseason rankings on Aug. 20. A Big Ten record five teams competed in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan advanced to the Elite Eight, before falling to eventual National Champion North Carolina. Maryland was the NCAA Championship runner-up for the second consecutive year.
IN THE CLASSROOM
Eight Hawkeyes — Isabella Brown, Makenna Grewe, Ellie Holley, Riley Kniptash, Ryley Miller, Maddy Murphy, Isabella Solaroli, and Leslie Speight — earned Academic All-Big Ten honors.
Losing three seniors, Iowa returns nearly every starter, including its top goal scorer, assist leader, and goalkeeper.