#1 Iowa Field Hockey Beats #2 Michigan In A Shootout Thriller

By RossWB on October 15, 2021 at 6:34 pm
@iowafieldhockey (Twitter)

In 1985 #2 Michigan came to Iowa City in October to take on #1 Iowa football in an epic showdown. The two evenly-matched teams battled for 60 closely-contested minutes and the game came down to the final play. You know the rest: Rob Houghtlin, walk-off winner, bedlam in Kinnick. 

Thirty-six years later... history repeated itself. 

#2 Michigan came to Iowa City in October to take on #1 Iowa field hockey in what was again an epic showdown. The two evenly-matched teams battled for 60 closely-contested minutes... and the game once again came down to the final play*. This time? A new hero (Sofie Stribos), same walk-off winner, and bedlam at Grant Field this time. (That's two rush the field moments in seven days for Iowa sports... It's always great to be a Hawkeye, but it's really great right now.)

*Technically, the "final play" this time came after 60 minutes of regulation field hockey action, two scoreless, 10-minute sudden victory overtime periods, and nine other shootout attempts (seven of which were missed), so this wasn't quite a 1:1 comparison... But hey: WALK-OFF WINNER WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Iowa and Michigan entered the game as the only two undefeated teams remaining in the country and with two teams befitting their dazzling rankings. Iowa entered this game having scored a Big Ten-best 53 goals and averaging 4.077 goals per game; Michigan entered with 45 goals and a per-game average of 4.091. Iowa had allowed just six goals over the course of the season, while Michigan had allowed just nine. These two teams have established themselves as the top of the class in field hockey this season and they looked the part in this game. 

The first half ended scoreless, despite Iowa having a bit more possession and more shots on goal. Michigan didn't wait long to break the deadlock in the second half, though, with Kathryn Peterson going top shelf to score the opening goal and give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead. That put Iowa in distinctly unfamiliar territory: behind in a game for the first time all season. 

Down a goal, Iowa pushed hard for an equalizer, but couldn't find the breakthrough until late in the fourth quarter. Senior star Anthe Nijziel buried a shot off a penalty corner with under three minutes left in the game to tie the game at 1-1. 

Tied after 60 minutes of action, the game moved into overtime. Field hockey overtime involves two 10-minute sudden death periods (played back-to-back, with a short break between the first and second period), followed by a 5-on-5 shootout. Overtime is also played 7-on-7, instead of 11-on-11, and, unsurprisingly, taking off eight players changes the game dramatically with so much more space available to the remaining players. The game was pretty wide open in the overtime sessions, with both teams getting stretched and both goalies needing to make clutch saves to keep the game tied.

Iowa had the best chances to end the game in overtime, with one great shot on goal requiring a masterful save by Michigan's Anna Spieker. The other great shot came on a penalty stroke awarded after a lengthy video review (seriously, if you thought the length of video reviews in college football was bad... well, it is, but it's also very bad in other sports!). Unfortunately freshman Leive Schalk's shot hit the cross bar and deflected over the net. 

The game headed to a shootout, with each team getting five tries to score against the opponent's goalie. That was (much) easier said than done, with Spieker and Iowa goalie Grace McGuire producing save after save to stop the opposing shooters. In fact, the first seven shots in the shootout (across both teams) were missed. Iowa got on the board first with a shot from their fourth taker, Lokke Stribos, but Peterson answered on the next shot, scoring Michigan's only goal of the shootout. Sofie Stribos stepped up as the final Hawkeye shooter, knowing that a goal would win the match -- after crossing over the goalie, she buried the shot in the back of the net. 

Cue pandamonium. Cue the coaches, players, and euphoric fans rushing the field. There was a brief delay to the celebrations while the officials did yet another (lengthy) video review to determine if the winning shootout goal was good. It was, victory was confirmed, and the celebrations resumed. 

What a game. What a win. What a team. McGuire recorded four saves in the game, plus another four in the shootout. She was an absolute wall in defense. The rest of the team defending exceptionally well too, with Michigan limited to just 10 shots for the game, including just four in regulation. Iowa's offense couldn't quite get on track in this game -- Michigan's defense was every bit as impregnable as Iowa's, frankly -- but they converted a key shot late when they absolutely needed it. 

This game was #1 vs #2 and after this game these two teams look very much like the two best field hockey teams in the nation this season. This could be the first of three meetings between Iowa and Michigan, with potential rematches in the Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament looming. But those games are mere hypotheticals at this point; this #1 vs #2 game was very real and Iowa was very victorious. 


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