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IOWA CITY — Iowa field hockey is one step away from the Final Four after Friday’s 3-2 win over American in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
As snow flurries came down heavily at Grant Field at points in the second half, the No. 2 Hawkeyes’ chances of winning also went down.
Two American goals fewer than six minutes apart in the third quarter turned a 1-0 Iowa lead into a 2-1 deficit in a game it took almost 27 minutes to score the first goal.
“It was stressful,” Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “There was a little bit of panic.”
But just like the snow flurries, the panic subsided.
“Once we were able to move the ball and just execute, we were fine,” Cellucci said.
Forward Ciara Smith found the back of the net twice in a three-minute span in the fourth quarter to retake the lead.
“She finds a way to touch the ball,” Cellucci said, “so thank God for her today.”
The first goal came off an assist from forward/midfielder Maddy Murphy as Smith found the lower left corner of the cage.
“I kind of just stepped forward and wanted to see if a defender would jump,” Smith said. “She jumped, and the stick was just there.”
Midfielder/forward Ellie Holley then fired a cross a few minutes later, and Smith decided to “just reach out and see what happens.”
Iowa midfielder/defender Lokke Stribos scored the Hawkeyes’ first goal late in the second quarter. Murphy and Holley earned the assist.
Holley, who entered play tied with Smith with a team-high eight goals, “found herself numerous times in a double-team or triple-team, and she was still able to get out of it.”
“That was key for us to be able to get some cleaner looks on goal,” Cellucci said.
The Hawkeyes weren’t the only Big Ten team to be less than perfect in the first round. No. 3 Michigan and No. 1 Rutgers each won by just one goal, and No. 4 Penn State fell to unseeded Syracuse.
Now Northwestern (15-5) is the only team standing in the way of a Final Four repeat for Iowa. Sunday’s quarterfinal game is set for 1 p.m. (BTN+).
“We’re going to have to put together a much better 60 minutes to be able to advance on Sunday,” Cellucci said.
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