By Taylor McNitt
Big Ten sports tend to draw athletes from all over, but Iowa’s field-hockey team is particularly interesting. Of the 21 players on the team, six are international players.
“We have a lot of — first of all — personalities who just bring a lot of fun to the team,” said head coach Lisa Cellucci. “They span all over the world, so that brings some great diversity, but then just their talent level. We have them on all three lines on the field, and just some very skilled players with some great speed and athleticism, so we’re really hoping that that will lean into our better team attack.”
Their origins range anywhere from the United Kingdom to Tasmania. Naturally, they had some adjusting to do upon becoming student-athletes at the University of Iowa.
Junior midfielder Isabella Brown, from Christchurch, New Zealand, listed numerous aspects of these differences.
“I think for me, between home and America, pretty much everything is different. The culture, the way people speak, the currency — everything’s different. Hockey-wise, it’s definitely a different kind of play, as in more thought goes into it in America. The coaches are really good here — but they’re good back at home as well.”
The differences in the play is an important thing to note for these players, because it affects each game.
“The field hockey out here compared to home is really different — the facilities are amazing, all of the support systems are really great, and we get to train a lot more,” graduate student Lucie Daman said. “We’re on the pitch every day, which is pretty cool, compared to back home.”
Freshman Ellie Holley, a midfielder and forward from Bristol, England, summed up what it’s like to play college field hockey in the United States.
“I think the big difference between home and here is that you can merge the fact of being a student and getting your degree, as well as playing hockey,” she said. “I think at home you have to choose one or the other, but here you’re allowed to merge the two. But you’re not compromising either of the fields, you’re getting a great top-class degree, but also getting professional hockey with fantastic facilities.”
The other international players agreed with her. This quality about Iowa drew them to the university, and none of them have regrets.
“The academic support we get alongside field hockey is [great],” said Brown. “All my lecturers have all been so nice about moving [around] stuff I’ve had to miss, helping me out in that respect. The support system from the sport and the academics is awesome.”
Not only is the university valuable to them, but they have proven to be valuable to the school as well. All six play important roles in contributing to the team’s success.
Two players in particular — sophomore Katie Birch from York, England, and freshman Maddy Murphy from Riana, Tasmania — dominate the statistical stage for field hockey.
Birch was the 2016 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and she leads in points this year. Murphy has just been named Big Ten Freshman of the Week and has been selected to be on the Australian Indoor World Cup team.
But even for all the attention these international players have gotten for their contributions to the Iowa field-hockey team, they still have at least one thing in common with most other students at the UI.
“Honestly, the only thing — the hardest thing would have to be leaving my family,” Holley said. “But as soon as I stepped foot here, I knew I was here exactly, and I’m loving every single day that I’m here.”