Lisa Cellucci enters her 24th season as a member of the University of Iowa field hockey team’s coaching staff in 2023-24 and her 10th as head coach. Cellucci, a three-time All-American and member of the U.S. National Team, is the all-time saves leader at Iowa. In her 23 years at Iowa, the Hawkeyes have compiled a 280-175 record and have been consistently ranked in the top 15 of the NFHCA national rankings.
In the past four seasons, the Hawkeyes have been a top 10 team in the national poll and the team ascended to the No. 1 spot in the rankings for seven straight weeks during the 2021 season. Iowa has advanced to the Elite Eight in each of the last four seasons, including a Final Four appearance in the spring of 2021.
Cellucci earned back-to-back-to-back Big Ten Coach of the Year honors (2019-21), becoming the first coach in Big Ten history to accomplish the feat. She and her staff have earned NFHCA Regional Coaching Staff of the Year honors twice.
In her nine years as head coach, Cellucci has coached:
- coached 18 NFHCA All-Americans
- 34 NFHCA All-West Regional selections
- 25 All-Big Ten selections, including 11 first-team honorees
- three NFHCA West Region Players of the Year, two Big Ten Player of the Years, two Big Ten Defensive Player of the Years, three Big Ten Offensive Players of the Year and one Big Ten Freshman of the Year
- 85 Academic All-Big Ten selections, 74 NFHCA National Academic Squad honorees, 27 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars, and 66 NFHCA Scholars of Distinction selections.
The Hawkeyes advanced to their fourth straight NCAA Elite Eight in 2022, finishing the season with a 12-8 overall record. Iowa, which finished the year ranked 11th in the NFHCA poll, advanced to its 21st Elite Eight with a shootout win over Virginia in the Sweet 16. The season ended in a shootout fashion, falling in a 2-1 heartbreaker at Northwestern.
Graduate student Anthe Nijziel capped her storied Hawkeye career with her third straight NFHCA first-team All-America honors. She is just the second Hawkeye all-time to earn three straight first-team All-America nods. Senior Esme Gibson also was an All-American, garnering second-team honors.
The Hawkeyes had three first-team all-region selections and four All-Big Ten honorees. In the classroom, the program had a record 17 Academic All-Big Ten honorees for a second straight year, nine players were named to the NFHCA Division I National Academic Squad and four players were NFHCA Division I Scholars of Distinction.
Following a quick turnaround from the 2021 spring season, Cellucci guided the Hawkeyes to the outright Big Ten regular season title in the fall of 2021 – the first for the program since 1999. It was Iowa’s second regular season title in three seasons.
The Hawkeyes started the season with 16 consecutive victories, the second-longest winning streak in school history. The program won five consecutive games against top-seven ranked foes from Sept. 19-Oct. 3 and went 10-3 against ranked opponents during the year.
Iowa won with a stingy defense and an opportunistic offense. Iowa’s defensive unit had an NCAA-best 11 shutouts, which included a school record eight consecutive clean sheets during the month of September. The Hawkeyes rose to No. 1 in the NFHCA rankings for the first time in program history – a spot they held for six straight weeks heading into postseason play.
The Hawkeyes hosted NCAA Sweet 16 games at Grant Field for the first time since 1999 and finished the year in the Elite Eight for the 19th time in program history. The team finished the year with a 17-3 overall record.
Iowa had four players earn All-America distinction – tied for the most nationally and the most for the program since 1996 — including Anthe Nijziel, who was a first-team selection. Maddy Murphy, Grace McGuire and Esme Gibson earned All-America nods with Murphy becoming the second four-time All-American in program history. Murphy was also a Honda Sport Award finalist – the 12th Hawkeye to be up for the distinction.
Nijziel was also named the NFHCA West Region Player of the Year (the third Hawkeye to accomplish the feat) and the Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year for a second straight season. She is the third player in Big Ten history (all Hawkeyes) to earn Player of the Year honors more than once.
Iowa had six players earn All-Region, five earn All-Big Ten and the program had a record eight Big Ten weekly and four NFHCA National Player of the Week honors during the season. Academically, the program had a record 17 Academic All-Big Ten and 24 NFHCA Division I National Academic Squad selection – tied for the second-most nationally.
During the 2021 spring season, Cellucci led the Hawkeyes to their 12th NCAA Final Four in program history. She was named Big Ten Co-Coach of the Year, while mentoring three NFHCA All-Americans, five NFHCA All-West Region honorees, and three All-Big Ten selections.
Junior Anthe Nijziel was named Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and junior Lokke Stribos and sophomore Esme Gibson earned All-NCAA Tournament honors. Senior forward Maddy Murphy earned her third NFHCA All-American honor, making her the eighth Hawkeye in program history to accomplish the feat.
Murphy led the Hawkeyes in goals (8) and points (18), senior Ellie Holley, a NFHCA All-American, led Iowa in assists (7) and tallied three goals, and freshman Alex Wesneski notched three goals. Iowa’s defense allowed only 0.78 goals per game and tallied eight shutouts.
During the 2019 season, Cellucci led the Hawkeyes to their 13th Big Ten regular season title, sixth Big Ten Tournament crown, and 17th Elite Eight appearance in program history. She was named Big Ten Coach of the Year, while her and her staff were named NFHCA West Region Coaching Staff of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Cellucci mentored two NFHCA All-Americans, five NFHCA All-West Region honorees, and three All-Big Ten selections. Senior Katie Birch was named Big Ten Tournament MVP, and fellow senior Sophie Sunderland and sophomore Lokke Stribos were named to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team. Junior forward Maddy Murphy, a second-team NFHCA All-American, led the Hawkeyes in goals (12), assists (13), and points (37), Stribos ranked second in goals (10) and total points (25), and Birch tabbed third in total points (24), tallying seven goals and 10 assists. Iowa’s defense allowed only 1.23 goals per game along with four shutouts.
In 2018, Cellucci led Iowa to its 23rd NCAA Tournament appearance in program history with a 14-7 (4-4) record. The Hawkeyes posted seven wins over top-25 opponents, including two over top-10 Penn State, to earn an at-large Sweet 16 bid against Wake Forest. Cellucci and the Hawkeyes made a Big Ten Tournament run as the sixth seed to finish as the runner-up.
Cellucci and her staff were named NFHCA West Region Coaching Staff of the Year after mentoring two NFHCA All-Americans, five NFHCA All-West Region selections and three All-Big Ten honorees. Sophomore Maddy Murphy, a NFHCA third-team All-American, led the team in goals (13) and points (33), junior Katie Birch, a NFHCA second-team All-American, led the team in assists (10) and shots (56), and junior Sophie Sunderland, a NFHCA second-team All-West Regional selection, was third on the team in goals (7), assists (5), and points (19). Cellucci was also instrumental in Iowa’s defense who allowed only 1.10 goals per game along with seven shutouts.
In 2017, Cellucci led two Hawkeyes to postseason accolades. Sophomore Katie Birch, who led the team in goals (14), points (36), and shots (68), earned three postseason honors: first-team All-Big Ten, NFHCA First-Team All-West Region and NFHCA Third-Team All-America honors. Birch registered four multi-goal games, including two hat tricks.
Freshman Maddy Murphy earned second-team All-Big Ten and NFHCA Second-Team All-West Region honors. Murphy ranked second on the team in goals (11), points (25), and shots (34), while also scoring three-game winning goals. The Hawkeyes finished 7-11 and 3-5 in the Big Ten.
In 2016, Iowa finished the season with a 12-7 record and were ranked 15th in the country. Natalie Cafone earned All-America accolades for a third straight season, and was named NFHCA First-Team All-Region for the second straight season. Cafone was also named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and the NFHCA West Region Player of the Year for the second time.
Chandler Ackers earned second-team All-Big Ten and NFHCA Second-Team All-West Region recognition for the second year in a row. Katie Birch was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and was also named second-team All-Big Ten and NFHCA second-team All-West Region selections.
In 2015, Cellucci led a pair of Hawkeyes to postseason accolades. Stephanie Norlander earned All-America honors for the second straight year and was named NFHCA first-team All-Region. Norlander, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, finished the season ranked third in the Big Ten in goals (16) and fourth in points (26). Chandler Ackers earned the first postseason honors of her career. The junior was named second-team all-region and second-team All-Big Ten after tallying a career-high eight goals and registering six assists.
In 2014, Iowa was ranked seventh nationally and averaged more than three goals per game. Natalie Cafone and Stephanie Norlander earned NFHCA All-America accolades under Cellucci’s guidance to become the 86th and 87th Hawkeyes to earn the distinction in program history. Cafone, who earned All-America honors for the second straight season, led the Big Ten in goals and points, and ranked fourth and seventh nationally, respectively.
Cafone’s efforts earned her Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and NFHCA West Region Player of the Year laurels. Norlander, a second-team selection, finished 13th and 19th nationally in goals and points per game.
Hawkeye goalkeepers have excelled under the mentorship of Cellucci. In 2012, Cellucci was a crucial part of the team’s success as Iowa reached its 22nd NCAA Tournament in program history. Senior Kathleen McGraw earned first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-America recognition. McGraw, who was a three-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, played every minute in goal and posted five shutouts to lead Iowa to a 14-7 record and its second-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Her 1.58 goals against average ranked second in the Big Ten and 17th nationally. McGraw closed out her career with 336 saves, the fourth-most in school history.
In 2008, Cellucci was again a vital part of Iowa’s success. She coached senior goalkeeper Lissa Munley to eight shutouts, including matches against three nationally ranked opponents. Munley ranked first in Big Ten shutouts, second in goals against average and third in save percentage. Iowa’s goals against average ranked ninth-best in the country and helped lead Iowa to its third straight Big Ten Tournament Championship, 20th NCAA Tournament appearance, and 11th NCAA Final Four appearance.
Barb Weinberg, a 2005 graduate, became one of nation’s top goalkeepers and went on to become a member of the USA National Team from 2005-10. Under Cellucci’s guidance, Weinberg became a two-time all-American, three-time all-Big Ten selection and three time all-region pick.
As a student-athlete, Cellucci was one of the greatest goalkeepers in program history. During her four years at Iowa, she was a three-time All-American, four-time All-Big Ten selection and four-time regional All-American.
As a freshman, she earned first-team All-Big Ten, first-team regional All-American and third-team NFHCA All-American honors as she helped Iowa to a 16-4 record. Her sophomore campaign was even more impressive, when she went 18-3 and was first-team All-Big Ten and a regional All-American, along with being second-team NFHCA All-American.
During her senior campaign, Cellucci became Iowa’s all-time saves leader by stopping her 494th shot in a 5-3 win over Ball State. She ended her career with 592 saves.
A member of the U.S. National Team from 1999-2000, Cellucci has extensive experience with the U.S. program. She played on the 1998 U.S. Under-23 National Team and on the U.S. Under-18 National Team in 1994. Cellucci also participated in three U.S. Olympic Festivals (1993, 1994 and 1995) and won a gold medal at the 1993 Festival and a bronze medal at the 1995 Festival.
She also has extensive coaching experience with USA Field Hockey. Cellucci, who has a Level 2 USA Field Hockey coaching accreditation, has been coaching in the USA High Performance program since 2003 and has served as a member of the Midwest High Performance Coaching Staff since 2005.
Before returning to Iowa as a coach, Cellucci was an assistant coach at James Madison, where she helped the Dukes to a 15-7 record and a spot in the NCAA Tournament in 1999.
Cellucci, who serves on the Board of Directors for the Iowa Letterwinner’s Club, graduated from the University of Iowa in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in communication studies.