For the first time in the history of the world, the Iowa field-hockey program had players named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Senior Natalie Cafone and freshman Katie Birch took home the honors Wednesday.
After a conference-leading 20 goal regular season, Cafone won the award for the second time in her career (2014) and also was named first-team All Conference for the third. She and conference Player of the Year Wilma Luus of Maryland were the only unanimous first-team selections.
It’s the third season in a row a Hawkeye has earned the honor, as Steph Norlander won the OPOY while Cafone took a redshirt due to a shoulder injury in 2015. The senior is only the third Hawkeye in program history to grab the award twice.
Birch — a second-team All-Conference honoree along with senior Chandler Ackers — is the fifth Hawkeye to win the award, with Norlander being the most recent in 2013. She finished second behind Cafone with 12 goals in her inaugural campaign as a Hawkeye and will be a huge part of next year’s offense, which is losing three of its top four scorers to graduation.
No. 15 Iowa takes on No. 12 Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament Thursday at 4:30 p.m. on BTN. It’s do or die for the Hawkeyes this weekend, as a Big Ten Tournament win is likely the only ticket to field hockey’s big dance.