By Michael McCurdy
The Iowa field-hockey team was able to pull away late to secure a must-win game against Ohio State on Thursday afternoon in Columbus.
The Buckeyes have played Big Ten teams close all year, and the Hawkeyes said they knew going in they had to be ready to withstand the Buckeyes’ opening punch.
Ohio State came flying out of the gates and struck first, thanks to a goal from the far right corner by Irene Fritschy.
Ohio State was not finished; around 16 minutes later, Maddy Humphrey broke through the Iowa defensive line and scored a goal to increase the lead to 2-0.
So the Hawkeyes buckled down.
After approximately five minutes, senior Chandler Ackers drove from the back of the scoring circle and struck the Ohio State goal with an impressive reverse slap shot, something Hawkeye fans are only used to seeing redshirt senior Natalie Cafone do.
With one half of play in the books, the stat line was fairly even — it was just Ohio State converted on one more of its goal attempts.
Down 2-1 without much production from Natalie Cafone, Iowa knew it would have to get something out of its star to win.
Halfway through the second half, the Hawkeyes finally converted on a penalty corner thanks to freshman sharpshooter Katie Birch. She was able to find a seam through the Ohio State defensive line and drill the back of the goalie box.
That tied the game with roughly 20 minutes left, and from that point on, it was who wanted the victory more; the Buckeyes, who were playing for their seniors on Senior Day and a chance to upset a top-15 Iowa team, or the Hawkeyes, who needed this game desperately for Big Ten and NCAA Tournament seedings.
After around 15 minutes, Cafone snuck down the Ohio State end line and squeezed a goal by the Buckeye’s defense. It ended up being arguably the most important goal this season, because the Buckeyes were not able to answer, thanks to the tremendous goal play from Iowa senior Alexandra Pecora.
Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci said she could not be more proud of her Hawkeyes, coming from behind in a game that had major implications for the rest of the season.
“To come back from two goals down showed great resilience from this group,” Cellucci said in a release. “We bent but didn’t break, and we were able to get the result. Now, it’s on to the postseason.”
Cafone’s goal secured the win for the Hawkeyes and a top-five seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Depending on this weekend’s Big Ten games, Iowa has the opportunity to move up to No. 4 in the standings. Once Oct. 30 rolls around, the tournament will be set, and by the end of next week, the games can officially begin.