After a brilliant start to the season, Iowa field hockey's magnificent run through the 2021 season has hit a few speed bumps of late. They lost 2-1 to Northwestern in their final regular season game, ending their unbeaten run. And then they lost 3-2 to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, putting the kibosh on their hopes of adding a Big Ten Tournament championship to go along with their Big Ten regular season championship. But there's still one big prize out there for them to seek: an NCAA championship. And now we know what their path to get to the top of the NCAA mountain will look like.
Iowa received the #2 seed in the 2021 NCAA Tournament and will host first- and second-round games in Iowa City.
Iowa will play American in their first round game on Friday, November 12 (12 PM CT, BTN+). American went 13-3 overall this season and won the Patriot League Tournament with wins over Lehigh and Lafayette to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Eagles' only common opponents with Iowa this year were Maryland and Boston University. Iowa beat Maryland 2-1 while American lost to the Terps 4-0. Meanwhile, Iowa beat Boston 4-0, while American beat them 3-1.
The winner of the Iowa-American game will play the winner of the North Carolina-Northwestern game on Sunday, November 14 (1 PM CT, BTN+) for a spot in the NCAA Field Hockey Final Four. Should Iowa get by the Eagles, either North Carolina or Northwestern would be a regular season rematch. Iowa defeated North Carolina 3-1 early in the season and had that aforementioned 2-1 loss to Northwestern a few weeks ago.
But any path to an NCAA championship for Iowa is likely to involve several rematches. The top four seeds in the NCAA Tournament are all Big Ten teams -- #1 Rutgers (who defeated Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament championship game), #2 Iowa, #3 Michigan, and #4 Penn State. Iowa went 4-1 against those teams this year, beating Penn State twice (4-0 and 1-0) and Rutgers once (2-1) and splitting two games with Michigan (a 2-1 shootout win and a 3-2 loss). Two other NCAA Tournament teams (Louisville and Maryland) were also on Iowa's schedule this year. Any NCAA Tournament run is sure to feature more than a few familiar faces along the way.
One added wrinkle to a potential rubber match with Michigan in the NCAA Tournament semifinal? The semifinals and championship game this year are being hosted in Ann Arbor, so Michigan would definitely enjoy a bit of home field advantage in those games should they make it that far.
Here's the full NCAA bracket:
The action gets underway for Iowa on Friday, November 12 at 12 PM CT. Let's hope Iowa can shake off their recent struggles and look like they dominant team that spent much of the season ranked #1 in the country. If they can do that, this team will have an opportunity to do some very special things over the next few weeks.
Go Field Hockey Awesome.