EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a five-part series recognizing the University of Iowa field hockey championship season anniversaries. The second installment looks at the Hawkeye’s 1994 team, celebrating 25 years since they won the Big Ten Tournament title and appeared in the NCAA Final Four.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Expectations were high out of the gate for the 1994 University of Iowa field hockey team. After competing for a national title two years prior and having a successful 1993 season, the team was poised for another long run. However, it didn’t start how most would have thought.
Sights were set on a national title, according to senior captain Debbie Lavigne. The greatness of the Iowa program set an expectation for a stellar postseason. After starting 5-2, the Hawkeyes felt like they were on their way.
A stretch of 10 straight Big Ten Conference games against highly-ranked opponents laid between the Hawkeyes and the postseason.
“I remember clawing our way through that season,” Lavigne said. “We knew what it would take to get back into contention for a Big Ten title and our 15-8 record at the end of the regular season was not what we had expected.”
Coming into the first tournament matchup between Michigan State, it was go time.
“We got over the hump with that first win against Michigan State,” Lavigne said. “Then going to face a great program like Penn State, we knew it would be a battle. I remember the Penn State matchup clear as day because I was the one who ended that game in overtime.”
Knowing that the team could earn an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament with a win in the B1G Championship, the team prepared for what could have been its final game together. It wasn’t.
“The Northwestern game came down to penalty strokes,” Lavigne said. “We knew we were going to lay it all out on the line. We kicked it into another gear to keep the season alive.”
Iowa won its first Big Ten Tournament title since 1981 in the battle over Northwestern. After two scoreless overtimes and a tie in the first round of stroke competition (4-4), the Hawkeyes won the second round, 3-1, to win the game, 2-1.
After defeating California, 3-2, in the first-round of the NCAA tournament, the Hawkeyes saw a familiar team in their path to a national championship. Old Dominion was between Iowa and a Final Four appearance.
The Hawkeyes had last seen Old Dominion during the 1992 season. The teams battled in the national championship after recording 20-0 seasons, but the Hawkeyes lost their 11th consecutive game to the Monarchs.
“I remember, Beth [Beglin] came into the locker room and didn’t say a word to us before going to the white board,” Lavigne said. “She wrote down 0-11. She looked at us and said, ‘This is our record against this team,’ and walked out. We knew after that how important this game would be for the program.”
At the start of the game, Lavigne and her team had a feeling they would pull it off. In overtime, that feeling came to fruition, and Iowa won 3-2. The Hawkeyes advanced to the Final Four for the third consecutive season, eventually losing to NCAA runners-up North Carolina.