116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — Iowa field hockey coach Lisa Cellucci has been familiar with the tradition of the program since she wore black and gold as a student-athlete from 1994-98.
After coaching at Iowa for the last 21 years, including the last seven as head coach, she would love for Hawkeye fans to be familiar with her team, as well.
“First of all I want people to know that we have a field hockey program,” Cellucci said. “We are one of the most prominent women’s sports with one of the best traditions.”
Cellucci can say that with confidence. The Hawkeyes have been crowned Big Ten champions 15 times, along with 24 Sweet 16 appearances and 11 Final Fours in the NCAA tournament.
That makes Iowa a powerhouse in the field hockey world.
“Our coaches work hard to continue to build this tradition,” Cellucci said. “After last year’s Big Ten regular season and tournament championships and missing the Final Four by a goal, we think this team can absolutely compete for a national championship.”
The Hawkeyes (11-4) defeated Maryland (6-7), 3-0, in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals Wednesday at Grant Field and will now face top-seeded Michigan in the semifinals Thursday at 4 p.m. (BTN).
“This is a great group and we have a lot of fun with a lot of great chemistry,” Cellucci said.
Chemistry can be even harder for Cellucci and staff to create with most players coming to the program from the east coast or internationally.
One of the most successful players in program history is Hawkeye junior and Netherlands-born Anthe Nijziel, who just celebrated her 21st birthday last Friday.
“(Nijziel) played at a very high level in Holland and physically we were looking for a center defender who was going to be a great distributor and a great on-ball defender,” said Cellucci when discussing the recruiting process for Nijziel.
“When we brought her here to meet in person, within a couple of minutes I knew that she is a competitor and she was really going to help our team. From the minute she stepped on the field as a freshman, she’s been a game-changer.”
High praise is fitting for a player like Nijziel. The junior defender was named Big Ten Player of the Year and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Monday, the first Hawkeye in program history to earn both honors simultaneously.
“I just see it as a team award,” Nijziel said. “It’s a big honor that I got that award, but the whole team was a part of our seven shutouts and our amazing defense.”
Although focused on the game ahead, Nijziel sees good things for the Hawkeye program in the near future.
“I think for now, we just take it game-to-game and that’s where our focus is,” Nijziel said. “But I have every confidence that this team can do amazing things.”