No. 20 Hawkeyes win first round of Big Ten tourney


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All it took was one. One meeting before the game. One pass from Natalie Cafone. One shot from Stephanie Norlander. One goal to give No. 20 Iowa a first-round victory over No. 18 Michigan.

“We got together as a team before and said, ‘It’s do or die pretty much,’ ” Niki Schultheis said. “We win this game, and we’re going on; if not, then that’s the last game we play with each other. We just made a pact and said this is not happening — we are winning this game.”

It took a while, but the Hawkeyes picked up their first win of the postseason in their quarterfinal game of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday morning in Columbus, Ohio.

After a defensive deadlock for the first 58:58 of the game, Iowa finally broke through on the goal by Norlander. The conference announced her as Big Ten Freshman of the Year during the game and the North Vancouver, B.C. native proved she was worthy of that title.

“It’s been a pretty good day,” Norlander said, sounding tired from the tilt.

Norlander received a dish from first-team All-Big Ten honoree Natalie Cafone to put the lone tally on the scoreboard at Buckeye Varsity Field.

“The ball was loose in the middle of the field, and I and Dani [Hemeon] both running to it, but I felt like I could get a better angle on the ball than Dani,” Cafone said with a raspy voice. “I went to the ball, got it, and there was a defender on me, and I saw Steph out of the corner of my eye. And she was wide-open. So I just laid it off to her, and she was able to finish it.”

Because of the way Iowa’s matchup with the Wolverines (12-8, 4-3) went on Oct. 5, the Hawkeyes weren’t going to let up after that goal. Iowa lost that contest, 3-2, in Ann Arbor, being held scoreless after the 7:14 mark.

“[After the goal] we obviously celebrated, but then we were like, ‘No, there’s still [10:02] left in the game; we have to play defense but still stay aggressive and keep attacking,’ ” Norlander said.

The play of fifth-year senior Kelsey Boyce was not lost in the intense atmosphere in Columbus. Boyce anchored the Hawkeyes, saving all four shots on goal in the second half of the contest.

In addition to Norlander’s honor, the conference announced that Cafone and Hemeon were named to the first-team All-Big Ten squad, and senior Karli Johansen was named to the second team All-Big Ten team.

The Hawkeyes will have fewer than 24 hours off between the end of their matchup Thursday and their semifinal contest today with No. 6 Penn State.

Game time is set for 9 a.m. CST with the top-seeded Nittany Lions, who are coming off of a 13-4, 5-1 regular season. Iowa lost to Penn State, 2-1, on Oct. 25.

“It’s going to be probably even tougher game, but we’re well-prepared, and we’re going to come out and play really hard,” Norlander said.

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