IOWA CITY, Iowa – Back-to-back goals by senior Ciara Smith capped the third-ranked University of Iowa field hockey team’s 3-2 come-from-behind victory over No. 15 American in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday afternoon at Grant Field.
The Hawkeyes advance to their 19th Elite Eight appearance in program history.
“We had some fantastic goals by Ciara Smith today,” said head coach Lisa Cellucci. “There were unbelievable cross balls by Ellie (Holley) and Maddy (Murphy), Lokke (Stribos), but she finds a way to touch the ball so thank God for her today. She’s truly a pressure person. She thrives under pressure.”
The Great Wall of Iowa held the Eagles to just three shots on goal. Meanwhile Iowa’s offense pressured the defense to make five saves off 12 shots – eight on goal.
After a scoreless first quarter, and with less than three minutes left in the second quarter, senior Lokke Stribos notched a goal off an Iowa corner to give the Hawkeyes the lead before half.
Out of half, in the 38th minute, American’s Julia Kraft tied the game off a deflection and four minutes later, Imogen Hatten put the Eagles on top when goalkeeper Grace McGuire came out to contest at the top of the circle and she put the shot away to make the score 2-1.
The Hawkeyes tied the game in the 49th minute when she got a stick on Maddy Murphy’s shot to deflect it into the cage for her team-leading ninth goal. In the 52nd minute, senior Ellie Holley sent a ball into the circle and Smith got a touch again to put the Hawkeyes on top.
“I just wanted to be where I could be at any time,” Smith said. “Wherever there is space I’m going to try and fill it. If there is a ball that is loose, I’m going to try and get there, but I think it’s just something about postseason.
“There’s something in the air, I just love that kind of pressure. I want to be there for my teammates as much as I can.”
The goals were Smith’s fourth and fifth NCAA Tournament goals. She scored twice to beat Duke in the Sweet 16 in 2019 and scored in the Elite Eight win over Northwestern last season.
HEAR FROM HEAD COACH LISA CELLUCCI
“There were a lot of emotions, but I told the team before the game, I said ‘Listen we have been in every possible situation we could be this year so whatever comes our way we are going to be prepared and we are going to be able to find a way out of it.’
“I didn’t think we would be in that situation down, 2-1, in the fourth quarter, but their resilience was unbelievable, and the way they just went on the attack right away.”
- Stribos’s goal was her eighth goal of the season.
- Smith is the first Hawkeye to score back-to-back goals in a game this season.
- The Hawkeyes advanced to the Elite Eight for a second straight season. The win was the team’s 28th NCAA victory all-time.
- Iowa snapped American’s eight-game winning streak. The Eagles finish the season 13-4.
The Hawkeyes will face No. 7 Northwestern in the Elite Eight on Sunday at 1 p.m. (CT) at Grant Field. Tickets are available for purchase at hawkeyesports.com. UI students can claim a ticket for free.