By Michael McCurdy
The Iowa field-hockey team entered its first round Big Ten tournament-opener with a lot of confidence — the team was ready to go.
The only problem was it had to go through a very talented Northwestern teamthat was hungry to get back at the Hawkeyes for Iowa’s win earlier this season in Evanston.
Iowa started the game off slowly, while the Wildcats opened the floodgates early thanks to 2 goals within the first 15 minutes.
Northwestern’s Kristen Mansfield fired a rebound shot that struck the back left corner of the goalie box. After that, the Hawkeyes could not defend the Wildcat penalty corner shot, and as a result, Isabel Flens recorded her 16th goal of the season.
The Hawkeyes dug themselves a hole early on but tried and tried to climb out of it with the help of the offense. Offensively in the first half, the Hawkeyes had 4 shots to Northwestern’s 10, something that is unacceptable for the team if it wanted to stick in the game.
The game was a tale of two halves, with the Hawkeyes coming out in the second half demonstrating a sense of urgency. Six minutes in, senior Sophie Plasteras found the back of the net thanks to one of her classic rebound shots. Plasteras always seems to be in the right place at the right time, and fortunately for the Hawkeyes she happened to be there for the rebound shot.
After Iowa scored to make things interesting, the Hawkeyes continued to put the pressure on the Wildcats by attacking the net offensively. In the second half, Iowa outshot the WIldcats 8-6 and the Hawkeyes had 4 penalty corners compared with Northwestern’s zero.
Iowa could have taken the lead in the second half thanks to the team’s offensive surge, but unfortunately for Iowa, that was not the case. Northwestern buckled down and played great defense in the scoring circle, not allowing Iowa any easy shots. As a result, Iowa was unable to score for a majority of the second half.
There seemed to be a glimpse of hope late in the second period when senior Chandler Ackers dribbled the ball down toward the scoring circle and passed it around patiently to her teammates.
Then, when she felt comfortable, Ackers fired a slapshot from the edge of the scoring circle that was so-so close at getting through to the back of the goalie box, but Northwestern had other plans. Wildcat goalie Lisa von der Luft was able to stick out her pad and deflect the ball’s trajectory and push it away from the goalie box.
Iowa was not able to get a better look the rest of the game and lost the contest, 3-1.
The Hawkeyes season is not over yet, however — they still have to hear whether they qualified for a bid to the NCAA tournament as an at-large team, and that announcement will come Nov. 9 at 9 p.m. CDT.
If this is the end, though, the Hawkeyes had a tremendous season that consisted of many ups and downs with all of the team’s injuries and lack of depth.
The team will lose four important seniors who did so much for the program, but trust in Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci because she’ll have the team ready for next season.
*Follow @MMccurd for more information on the Iowa field-hockey team.*