Hawkeye Soccer, Field Hockey Teams Fall in Big Ten Championships

From Hawkeye Sports

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By Aaron Hepker

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The University of Iowa soccer team's Big Ten Tournament run came to an end with a 1-0 loss to top-seeded and No. 18 Nebraska in Sunday's championship game at the Illinois Soccer Stadium.

"I am proud of how far our team came, but it hurts because we know we could have finished off this game," said senior midfielder Alex Melin. "We're right there with these top teams."

Iowa's offense came out aggressively, firing five shots at Husker goalkeeper Emma Stevens in the first 22 minutes of the game. The Hawkeyes missed a golden opportunity at the 21:10 mark when Melin created space and fired a laser toward the goal, but it sailed high and hit the post to keep the game scoreless.

"We did a good job of getting balls to Cloe's (Lacasse) feet, and she was able to beat some people," said UI head coach Ron Rainey. "A couple times our central midfielders were able to dribble forward with the ball and create some chances. The one that hit the post in the first half, if that goes in, maybe it's a little different game."

Nine minutes later, the Huskers netted the game's only goal via a penalty kick at the 29:11 mark. Nebraska played a through ball perfectly to a find a streaking Jaycie Johnson. The forward made a move in the box, where she took on contact from junior Melanie Pickert and was fouled in the box.

Johnson converted the penalty kick into the upper right corner past a diving Hannah Clark to give Nebraska a 1-0 lead. The strike was Johnson's 13th goal of the season and the first goal against the Hawkeyes since Oct. 27 against Ohio State.

After taking the 1-0 leading into the break, the Huskers dropped back with numbers defensively in the second half. Iowa managed six second half shots, but zero were on goal. The Hawkeyes had three of their four corner kicks in the final 17 minutes, but Nebraska defense cleared ball-after-ball.

"After we were a goal down, you saw Nebraska do what we did to Penn State and Michigan and frustrate them and get numbers behind the ball," said Rainey.

Iowa finished the game with a 16-11 advantage in shots, but only three were on goal. Stevens made three saves in goal for the Huskers en route to the shutout -- the first against the Hawkeyes this season.

"This one hurts a little bit," said junior defender Caitlin Brown. "We talked before the game about everyone doing everything they could and being able to look your teammate in the eye and say I did everything I could. As a group, collectively, we did that."

Pickert and Clark were both named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team for their play in the Hawkeyes three games.

Iowa (15-6-1) will now await word on its NCAA Tournament fate. The selection show will take place Monday at 3:30 p.m. (CT), and it will be streamed live online at NCAA.com.

"We're looking forward if we get named on selection day to go to the NCAA Tournament," said Rainey. "The team has started playing some of its best soccer of the year. We want that to continue if we're named one of the 64 teams."

Meanwhile, in Columbus, Ohio, the 20th-ranked University of Iowa field hockey team fell to Michigan State, 3-2, Sunday afternoon in the Big Ten title game. Michigan State fought back from a two goal deficit at halftime to defeat the Hawkeyes.

"We didn't play a full 70 minutes today," said head coach Tracey Griesbaum. "The better team won today."

Iowa jumped on the board first as first team All-Big Ten honoree Natalie Cafone scored her 22nd goal of the season. The sophomore flew past the Spartan defense and beat the Michigan State goalkeeper on the backhand to put the Hawkeyes on top, 1-0.

Iowa stayed on the offensive as 20 minutes later senior Kelsey Mitchell scored her first goal of the tournament to put the Hawkeyes up, 2-0. Mitchell scored high and to the left after a centering feed from Big Ten Freshman of the year, Stephanie Norlander.

Michigan State fought back at the start of the second half. Abby Barker scored for the Spartans at the 43:58 mark off a feed from Heather Howie. Roughly 13 minutes later, Barker struck again for the Spartans scoring her fifth goal of the tournament for the Spartans. Barker redirected a pass off a corner feed.

The Spartans tallied the game-winner at the 62:59 mark as Adelle Lever scored an unassisted goal.

"We won the first half today but we lost the game," said Griesbaum.

Cafone and junior Dani Hemeon were named to the all-tournament team.

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