CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The sixth-ranked University of Iowa field hockey team advanced to the Elite Eight behind a 3-2 NCAA Tournament first-round win over eighth-ranked Duke at Karen Shelton Stadium on Friday afternoon.
Iowa earned its 17th victory of the season and are headed to the Elite Eight for the seventh time in school history.
“That was a lot of fun,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “We got off to a great start. That was one of our goals – try and put some goals on the board early. We had a fantastic first two quarters, and then we played great defense down the stretch.”
Iowa had a commanding 3-0 lead heading into halftime and closed it out with clutch defense.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Hawkeyes established themselves early. Sophomore Leah Zellner scored Iowa’s first goal and her seventh of the season five minutes into the game on an assist from sophomore Ciara Smith. Then, Smith, who scored or assisted on all three of Iowa’s goals, started to take over.
In the 11th minute on a pass into the circle from junior Maddy Murphy, Smith gave Iowa a 2-0 lead after dribbling to her right before scoring her third goal of the season.
Next, after an Iowa penalty corner, Smith scored her second goal of the game and fourth of the season on a rebound goal. The goal gave Iowa a 3-0 lead and capped off a strong first half.
“It was important (to get out to a hot start) because we knew Duke’s a strong team that’s going to continue to fight each quarter,” Smith said. “We knew we had to step on the gas and keep pushing. That’s what we did. It was nice to get that momentum heading into the half.”
In the second half, Duke tried to chip away. A video referral gave the Blue Devils a penalty stroke in the 38th minute. Senior goalkeeper Leslie Speight guessed right on the stroke but couldn’t make the save. The Hawkeyes’ lead was cut to 3-1.
Late in the third quarter, Speight made back-to-back saves on Duke penalty corner attempts to keep the score at 3-1. Speight finished the game with five saves for the second straight game.
With six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Duke made it a one goal game after the Blue Devils scored a rebound goal. Iowa owned a 3-2 lead when Duke pulled its goalkeeper with four minutes to play, but it didn’t matter. The Hawkeyes cleared the ball with roughly one minute left and that ended the game.
HEAR FROM COACH CELLUCCI
On strong start:
“What we were doing was sticking to our game and our strengths. We were really building the ball well on the right side. People were joining hard, overlapping, and we had layers to our attack. That’s what led to the goal. (Ciara) Smith had two great finishes in the first quarters.”
On Ciara Smith’s play:
“Ciara’s been a contributor all season, and she’s really come on the last six games. She has outstanding speed. She’s fearless. She frames the goal really well. Those were fantastic goals.”
HEAR FROM CIARA SMITH
“It was a full team effort. Everyone was playing for each other and with each other. We grinded it out and played simple, smart hockey. It feels good to get the win, but we have to keep going from there.”
- Today marked Ciara Smith’s first career multi-goal game. The Midlothian, Virginia, native has three postseason goals.
- Iowa recorded nine shots and three shots on goal, with Duke saving zero of them.
- Leah Zellner has recorded a goal or assist in three straight games.
No. 8 Iowa faces No. 1 North Carolina Sunday at 12 p.m. (CT) in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals at Karen Shelton Stadium. The Hawkeyes fell to the Tarheels, 2-1, during the regular season in a neutral-site game.