No. 4 Maryland field hockey starts its two-game road trip with a top-five showdown against the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes on Friday at 4 p.m. in Iowa City, Iowa.
The Terps (9-1) are coming off an offensive explosion in their dominant 7-2 victory over Michigan State on Sept. 25. Maryland’s offense applied pressure the entire afternoon, as it recorded at least two goals in three of the four quarters. Its defense stifled the Spartans’ attack, limiting them to four penalty corners and seven shots.
Iowa (8-1) enters the matchup on a seven-game winning streak that began with a 4-0 victory over Boston University on Sept. 2. In their 6-1 victory over Ball State on Sept. 25, the Hawkeyes recorded five second-half goals to put the game out of reach.
Maryland leads the all-time series with a 10-2 advantage in the regular season along with the teams splitting their two postseason matchups. The Hawkeyes defeated Maryland last season at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex by a score of 2-1 on a late fourth-quarter goal.
The Terps will look to pick up their largest victory of the season on the road, while Iowa hopes to hand Maryland its second loss in the last four games.
Now, let’s look at the Iowa Hawkeyes.
No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes (8-1)
2021 record: (17-3) (7-1 Big Ten)
Iowa is led by head coach Lisa Cellucci, who’s entering her ninth season guiding the program. During her 22-year tenure for the Hawkeyes, she has amassed a 268-163 record and her program has been a mainstay in the NFHCA rankings.
The Hawkeyes opened their 2021-22 season with 16 consecutive victories, the program’s second-longest winning streak. Iowa was consistently ranked in the top 10 and held the No. 1 ranking for seven straight weeks. Celluci led the program to its first Big Ten regular season title since the 1999 season.
Cellucci has achieved excellence for Iowa, coaching 16 NFHCA All-Americans and 21 All-Big Ten selections — 10 of those selections earned first team honors. She was a three-time All-American during her playing career for the Hawkeyes. As the program’s all-time saves leader, Celluci was a key member of the U.S. National Team that won a gold medal at the 1993 U.S. Olympic Festival.
The player-turned-coach achieved history by collecting three consecutive Big Ten Coach of the Year awards (2019-21).
With Cellucci leading the way, it’s safe to conclude that Iowa will remain a contender not just in the Big Ten, but a threat to win it all this season.
Players to know
Alex Wesneski, junior forward, No. 4 — Wesneski is an aggressive forward who consistently looks for scoring opportunities in transition. Her nine goals this season are tied for third in the Big Ten and offer a preview of her contributions to Iowa’s offensive attack against the Terps. The junior forward leads Iowa in shots with 21 and appears the favorite to maintain that advantage the entire season. She recorded a pair of goals in Iowa’s 2-0 victory over the defending national champions, the Northwestern Wildcats.
Annika Herbine, sophomore forward, No. 24 — The ultra-quick sophomore returns after logging a solid freshman campaign for the Hawkeyes. Herbine ranks seventh in the conference with six goals. The Pennsylvania native scored two goals in Iowa’s 3-1 victory over Providence. She is a willing passer, evidenced by her third-place ranking in the Big Ten with six assists. Herbine’s dual-threat ability adds a dynamic ability to a team looking to compete for Big Ten supremacy this season.
Anthe Nijziel, graduate defender, No. 6 — Nijziel is third on the team with five goals in her final campaign with the Hawkeyes. Her three assists are an addition to Iowa’s conference lead in that category this season. She recorded two goals in Iowa’s 6-1 road victory over Ball State on Sept. 25. The agile defender is second on the team with 19 shots, which shows her ability to contribute on the offensive end. Nijziel’s ability to defend at a high level is a welcomed addition to a defense among the best in the conference.
Goals. The Hawkeyes’ hot start to the season can be credited to their offense, which is averaging 3.6 goals per game. Iowa has four athletes that have scored at least four goals this season, showcasing its depth and ability to attack opposing defenses in multiple ways. Its offensive attack remains persistent and a threat to consistently score at the opponent’s cage. While they’ve yet to surpass their season-high total of five goals, the Hawkeyes’ talent is capable of exploding for more in any game on the rest of their schedule.
Shots. Iowa, a perennial contender in the Big Ten, has been efficient in securing victories with great defense and a talented offense. But, the Hawkeyes average 12.6 shots per game which ranks seventh in a conference with explosive offensive attacks. Their offense has been serviceable enough to record a healthy number of goals, but recording more shots at the cage will help to increase their offensive efficiency.
Three things to watch
1. Can Maryland’s strong defense negate Iowa’s high-powered offense? The Terps have been lights-out defensively through nine games thus far, pitching two shutouts and only allowing two goals or less in nine games. Iowa enters the Big Ten showdown second in the conference with 3.3 goals per contest. Maryland’s defense has two interchangeable goalkeepers in Paige Kieft and Christina Calandra, who have been outstanding at protecting the cage and communicating defensive adjustments to their teammates. Maryland junior defender Rayne Wright has been a focal point of a Terps defense that has allowed 1.4 goals per game. Iowa has five athletes on its roster that have recorded at least three goals. The performance of each unit will play a role in the outcome of the game.
2. Will the Terps add another ranked opponent to their already impressive resume? Maryland is 8-1 on the season, with an unblemished 3-0 record in conference play. Through nine games, six of the Terps’ victories have come against opponents ranked in the top 25. The Terps have fared well against competition from multiple conferences and can make a statement with a victory over No. 3 Iowa on Friday.
3. Which Maryland team will show up on the road for Friday’s Big Ten clash? Going into the road clash, the Terps lead the Big Ten with 4.1 goals per game. Maryland recorded seven goals in a dominant 7-2 victory over No. 18 Duke on Sept. 4. They scored two goals the following week in a close victory over No. 12 Harvard. Iowa’s defense has been lights-out this season with a Big Ten-leading defense that’s allowed .75 goals per game. The Hawkeyes have pitched four shutouts, only allowing more than one goal once. This game will be one to keep an eye on, as both programs have national championship aspirations.