Olympic Sports Spotlight: 9/27

In Olympic Games

Look, there are a lot of great teams at Iowa and I promise I will spread the love around more as the season goes on, but when you beat the #1 team in the country, you’re definitely going to get the spotlight for the week. I don’t make the rules. Well actually, I do make the rules, but that one seems like a pretty smart one if I do say so myself. How often do regular season wins come with swimming in Lake Michigan celebrations?

This Week’s Spotlight: Iowa Field Hockey

Last year, Hawkeye field hockey spent the bulk of the season undefeated and ranked #1 in the country. A pair of tight losses in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments turned a magical season into a heartbreaking one and when Iowa had the chance this season to exact a bit of revenge on #1 Northwestern, one of the two teams to beat the Hawks last year, they took full advantage.

From the get-go Iowa came out the more intense side on Friday afternoon. The Hawks were physical and aggressive from the opening whistle. The Wildcats were #1 for a reason and handled the Hawkeye pressure well for the most part, but Iowa forced a turnover in Northwestern’s own half midway through the first quarter and turned it into the match’s first goal.

Northwestern responded with a prolonged offensive attack, generating a slew of penalty corners, but the Iowa defense, led by goalie Grace McGuire, stood tall and held the lead. Iowa finally relieved some of the pressure near the end of the second quarter and came up with another opportunistic goal. The Hawks switched the field in transition and fired a long pass into the circle, finding Alex Wesneski who put away her second goal of the match.

Wesneski has been on an absolute tear to start the season. Her two goals against Northwestern gave her nine (!) already on the year. Field hockey is not generally a game with high shot or goal totals, even less so when you’re taking on tough competition as Iowa has to start the season. Right now, Wesneski is converting almost every single opportunity she gets and it is making Iowa absolutely lethal. If teams decide to commit more players forward to try to break through the stout Hawkeye defense, Wesneski is making them pay on the counterattack. It’s a perfect combination that will lead to a lot of success if the Hawkeyes can sustain it all year.

Northwestern mounted more prolonged attacks in the second half, but the Iowa defense was more than up to the task, blanking the #1 team in the country and coming away with the huge 2-0 win. Wesneski and McGuire’s big games earned them each Big Ten Player of the Week awards.

The Hawks followed up the big win with a 6-1 beatdown of Ball State on Sunday (that included another Wesneski goal for good measure). 

The holdovers from last year’s field hockey team clearly came out with something to prove against Northwestern. For much of the game, Iowa simply played with more intensity than the Wildcats. The team wanted to wash away some bad memories and they did so while making a statement to the rest of the country. There is a stack of good teams at the top of the country, many of which play in the Big Ten conference so this is by no means a crowning moment for the season. But as Ric Flair always said, to be the best, you have to beat the best. At least for a week, the Hawkeyes passed that test with flying colors.

Hawkeye Whiparound

  • Iowa soccer played two matches last week, a scoreless draw against Michigan State and a 2-0 loss to Ohio State. The Hawks are creating chances, but haven’t consistently found the back of the net to start the conference slate. It’s early, and this team knows that there’s always time for a turnaround. Hopefully, some of the shots will start to find their mark next week.
  • Hawkeye volleyball faced Ohio State and Purdue last week. It was tough sledding against Ohio State, who swept the Hawks 3-0, although Iowa made the ranked Buckeye squad work for the third set. Iowa did better against a Top-10 Purdue team and won the second set and arguably should have come away with another set as well, but the Boilermaker firepower eventually proved too much to overcome and they pulled away in the third and fourth sets. The end results didn’t go the way the Hawks wanted, but there are definite signs of team identity and a competitive spirit. I’ll continue to preach that it’s a long-term project here, but the early returns are definitely positive.
  • The Hawkeye women’s golf team finished 10th at the Badger Invitational last week, a ten-shot improvement on their performance from that event in 2021. Shannyn Vogler was the Hawks’ top finisher, finishing 16th (+3). The Iowa Women’s next competition takes place Oct. 7th-9th. The Iowa men’s golf team is taking part in the Inverness Intercollegiate this week in Toledo as they continue their fall slate.


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