Iowa midfielder Katie Birch fends off Michigan State forward Shelby Spice back Caitlin Abbot during the Iowa v. Michigan State field hockey match at Grant Field on Friday, Oct. 21, 2016. The Hawkeyes defeated the Spartans 5-3. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)

Field hockey drops 2 in challenge

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Hawkeyes lost in both games in the ACC Big Ten Challenge, but kept things close against top-20 teams.

By Taylor McNitt   
taylor-mcnitt@uiowa.edu

Iowa field hockey fell to Wake Forest, 3-2, on Aug. 26 and to North Carolina, 3-0, on Sunday.

But that’s not where the story ends — or even really begins.

“I think we were probably disconnected at times, but that’s just us coming together,” sophomore Katie Birch said. “We’re still quite a young team; we’ve only been playing together for two weeks during preseason, obviously.”

Not only is the season young, so are the players.

With eight freshmen, as many as the juniors and seniors combined, experience is not on Iowa’s side.

“[These games give new players] confidence right away,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “Yeah, they don’t have the outcome, but it helps them know that they can compete.”

The Hawkeyes struggled finding their footing to start off against Wake Forest, but after being down 2 goals, they’d had enough.

Iowa came back with 2 goals of its own before the end of the first half, ready to take the lead in the second half.

Unfortunately, Wake Forest was also ready to regain its lead, and the final score ended up 3-2, Wake.

RELATED: Field hockey shines in ACC split

The following game against North Carolina was a loss, but the score didn’t reflect the Iowa team that showed up.

“I’m really proud,” said Cellucci. “We had North Carolina, No. 1 team in the country, on the ropes [until there were] 16 minutes left in the game.”

The score remained at 0-0 until the Tar Heels finally scored on one of their eight penalty corners. The Hawkeyes retaliated with fervor but were unable to put the ball in the back of the net.

The Tar Heels, using their momentum, scored 2 more goals before the final buzzer sounded.

“Had we capitalized on that penalty stroke early, I think [the game] would have been a very different tone,” Cellucci said.

“We always come to play a good team, but we’re also a good team,” senior Katie Jones said. “[Saturday] wasn’t the greatest game, obviously, but we learned a lot from it. [Today], the way we started connecting passes and transitioning defense; I think we were able to just pick it up from there, learn from our mistakes and move on.”

Jones had an impressive showing on Sunday, making two definite saves while proving to be an intimidating force in the net that prevented more shots from becoming goals.

Freshman Madeline Murphy also proved herself on the field on Sunday, both as an individual player and a team player.

“It takes the team for a full performance like that,” Murphy said. “A hard preseason was also helpful, [and] just working as a unit and really giving it my all, our all.”

And on Sunday, that’s just what the Hawkeyes did.

It was clear that Iowa could hold its own against North Carolina.

“I think both days, the scores don’t reflect how good we really are,” said Jones. “Just because we lost both games doesn’t mean it indicates what the season will be. It’s just two games, and moving forward, I can say that our passing can be a lot better, we’ll be able to execute in a circle, and we’ll be able to play great defense as a whole.”

Her coach echoed those thoughts.

“I’m really proud of how we came out of [Saturday],” Cellucci said. “If we had showed up [Saturday] like this, I think it would have been a very different outcome.”

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