By Taylor McNitt
Today, the No. 19 Iowa field-hockey team will take on Penn State, marking the beginning of Big Ten play.
The wait for the conference slate of games has been a long one.
“I look forward to our Big Ten play, the Big Ten Tournament,” senior Mallory Lefkowitz said. “I definitely want to compete in our conference the most, and I think that will definitely show our abilities, how good we really are.”
The Nittany Lions are ranked No. 2 with a 5-0 record. They’ve defeated Old Dominion, No. 10 Virginia, Temple, No. 15 Wake Forest, and No. 12 Princeton. Their goalkeeper, junior Jenny Rizzo, leads the Big Ten with a save percentage of .822 and a goals-against average of 1.04; her two shutouts this season tie her for first in the Big Ten.
This means that Iowa’s scorers will face a formidable opponent on the attack. However, they remain optimistic.
“I think coming off the back of our game on [Sept. 10], I’m really excited for what we can do going forward,” junior Isabella Brown said. “We’ve got a couple of tough games coming up, like Penn State, but we put in a good performance on [Sept. 10], and if we do that again, it’s going to be a pretty exciting season. With the potential we’ve got on our team, I think we can do pretty well throughout the season.”
Sophomore Sophie Sunderland ehcoed the optimism.
“Our schedule this year has been really, really tough,” she said. “We’re playing a lot of teams in the top 25 … but we’ll come out strong.”
Iowa leads the overall record with Penn State, 25-23-1, even though it fell to the Nittany Lions last season. While Penn State boasts junior Moira Putsch as its leading striker, Iowa is confident in sophomore Katie Birch, who leads the Big Ten in goals, goals per game, and points. Freshman Maddy Murphy, who is fifth in points and tied for third in goals in the Big Ten, adds help on offense. The Hawkeyes, despite the team rankings, have reason to be optimistic.
They feel prepared to take on any team, especially considering their performance against No. 1 North Carolina at the beginning of the season.
“[We were] 0-0 with the No. 1 team in the country,” head coach Lisa Cellucci had said at the conclusion of the North Carolina game said after Iowa’s loss.
That score had held until the last 16 minutes of the game, proving to the Hawkeyes and their opponents that they had the stuff to be one of the top dogs, and they hope to bring that to the game today against Penn State and throughout the rest of the Big Ten season.
“Especially since it’s the Big Ten, it’s really steeped up a notch this season, so it’s definitely going to be exciting to see how we fare against everyone and show everyone what Iowa can do,” said graduate student Lucie Daman.
Not only are the Hawkeyes ready to show Penn State what they can do, but on Sept. 17, the they will square off against Penn for the first time. After that contest, Iowa’s final nonconference game will be on Oct. 8 against Duke. Big Ten play resumes for Iowa on Sept. 22, when the Hawkeyes travel to College Park, Maryland, to face the Terrapins.