Michael Boal is in his third season as the associate head coach for the University of Iowa field hockey program and his 10th overall with the program.
In Boal’s nine years in Iowa City, he has 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.
The Hawkeyes have also been stellar in the classroom, as Boal has coached 85 Academic All-Big Ten selections, 74 NFHCA National Academic Squad honorees, 40 Big Ten Distinguished Scholars and 66 NFHCA Scholars of Distinction selections.
During the 2022 season, Boal helped guide the Hawkeyes to their fourth straight NCAA Elite Eight appearance, 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 No. 5 Virginia in the Sweet 16. The season ended in a shootout fashion, falling in a 2-1 heartbreaker at No. 3 Northwestern.
Graduate student Anthe Nijziel capped her storied Hawkeye career with her third straight NFHCA first-team All-America honor. 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, four players were NFHCA Division I Scholars of Distinction and six players were named Big Ten Distinguished Scholars.
Following a quick turnaround from the 2021 spring season, Boal helped lead 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, Boal helped guide the Hawkeyes to their 12th NCAA Final Four in program history. Boal helped mentor 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. Iowa’s defense allowed only 0.78 goals per game and tallied eight shutouts.
During the 2019 season, Boal assisted the Hawkeyes in earning their 13th Big Ten regular season title, sixth Big Ten Tournament crown, and 17th Elite Eight appearance in program history. Iowa’s coaching staff was named NFHCA West Region Coaching Staff of the Year for the second consecutive season after recording a 17-5 record. Boal contributed to the mentorship of 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).
In 2018, Boal helped guide Iowa to a 14-7 record, qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, and finishing second in the Big Ten Tournament. The Iowa coaching staff was named NFHCA West Region Coaching Staff of the Year. Boal was instrumental in six Hawkeyes garnering postseason accolades. Sophomore Maddy Murphy, who led Iowa with 13 goals and 33 points, was a NFHCA third-team All-American, NFHCA first-team All-West Regional selection, and a first-team All-Big Ten selection. Junior Katie Birch led the team in assists (10) to earn NFHCA second-team All-America honors, NFHCA first-team All-West Region honors, and second-team All-Big Ten honors. Sophie Sunderland, a second-team All-Big Ten selection, joined freshman Anthe Nijziel and Ellie Holley as NFHCA second-team All-West Regional selections. The Hawkeyes finished 14-7 (4-4) with a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
In 2017, Boal helped mentor Katie Birch and Maddy Murphy to postseason honors. Birch led Iowa in goals (14), points (36), and shots (68) to earn 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, Boal helped guide three Hawkeyes to postseason accolades. Natalie Cafone earned All-America accolades for the third straight season, and was named NFHCA First-Team All-West Region honors 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 selection. The Hawkeyes finished the 2016 season ranked No. 15 with a 12-7 record.
In 2015, Boal helped guide a pair of Hawkeyes to postseason accolades. Stephanie Norlander earned All-America accolades 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 scored (16) and fourth in points (26). Chandler Ackers earned the first postseason honors of her career. The junior was named a second-team All-West Region and second-team All-Big Ten selection after tallying a career-high eight goals and registering six assists.
In 2014, Boal helped guide an Iowa team that ranked seventh nationally and averaged more than three goals per game to an 11-7 overall mark while finishing 4-4 in conference play. The Hawkeyes finished fifth in the Big Ten and earned a berth in the conference tournament for the 22nd consecutive year.
Prior to his arrival at Iowa, Boal worked at James Madison, where he joined the staff as associate head coach in July of 2013. He was named interim head coach in October of 2013, and served in that role for the remainder of the 2013 season, leading the Dukes to a 4-2 finish and a tie for third in the Colonial Athletic Association. Boal also served as an assistant coach for the Dukes during the 2010 season, coaching goalkeepers and playing a key role in recruiting efforts.
In between his two stops at James Madison, Boal spent two seasons as the associate head coach at Virginia, helping lead the Cavaliers to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
The Sunderland, England, native served as the assistant director of hockey at Durham University in the United Kingdom prior to coaching at the NCAA Division I level. He was responsible for the coaching and development of both men’s and women’s performance groups, recruiting across Europe, match preparation, video analysis, and conducting coaching and evaluation sessions for all 16 intramural college teams.
At Durham University Boal assisted Gavin Featherstone, a renowned double Olympic and World Cup head coach for the USA and South Africa field hockey teams. They led the men’s and women’s teams at Durham to top-10 rankings amongst United Kingdom universities, and won National North Conference Championships and Northern Division One Championships in 2010.
Before joining the staff at Durham, Boal coached at the Olton & West Warwick’s Hockey Club for four years. He was involved in all aspects of the management of the women’s first and second teams, including daily planning and conducting of practice, and physical training. He coached the women’s first team in the prominent English National Premier League at the age of 20, making Boal the youngest ever to coach a women’s team in the League.
While at Olton & West Warwick’s, Boal also coached players with national and international representative honors, including two 2008 Olympians for Great Britain. He developed three representatives for the Junior World Cup and two under-18 Internationals.
Boal graduated with honors from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom in June of 2009. He earned his bachelor’s degree in sports management and was an ambassador for the university. Boal made four British University Finals appearances as a player and coach and was part of their 2006-07 National League winning side.