By Taylor McNitt
Last weekend, Iowa field hockey faced Penn State on the road in its first Big Ten meeting of the season. A 3-0 loss clearly didn’t go the way the Hawkeyes had hoped, but this weekend will bring the chance for redemption when Iowa takes on two more eastern Big Ten opponents.
“The team really developed this week,” freshman Maddy Murphy said. “After [Penn State], it was a big revelation to us how we played well, there was no question in that. But we were just unable to execute, and I think a big take-home message for me in that was how hard we have to work with one another for the full 70 minutes.”
Senior goalkeeper Katie Jones said the team can avoid further losses against Big Ten opponents by playing more in sync. Being in goal, she can see the entire field of play.
“Just connecting our passes on the field, working on building from our outlet,” she said. “First touches are really important. Protecting the middle and transition defense, and establishing the ball pressure first, and having everyone else go behind are going to be really key this weekend.”
Head coach Lisa Cellucci has her own take on the Penn State game and on what the Hawkeyes can take from it to tackle two more Big Ten teams. She notes that Iowa hung with Penn State for the first 50 minutes of the loss.
“We just, all in all, don’t have the depth to really finish at the level that we need to,” she said. “Our fatigue set in, and we weren’t able to keep possession as well as we needed to.”
Today, the Hawkeyes will take on No. 10 Maryland, and jumping over the hurdle of a lack of depth will be key.
Thus far, the 2016 Big Ten Champion Terrapins boast a 5-2 record.
Scoring isn’t an issue for the Terrapins; senior Lein Holsboer, who this season has 5 goals, ranking her fourth in the Big Ten.
Maryland’s defense remains strong as well, thanks to junior goalkeeper Sarah Holliday. She ranks second in the Big Ten in goals against average and third in save percentage.
Maryland has a 11-3-1 advantage over the Iowa in the teams’ last 15 meetings.
On Sept. 24, Iowa will face No. 23 Rutgers; the Scarlet Knights are ranked nationally for the first time since 2008. The Hawkeyes lead in the record between them, 6-1-1.
The Scarlet Knights do possess freshman Daphne Groothuis, who is tied with Murphy in the Big Ten for third in goals (6) and fourth in points (15).
“I think we put together a complete game [against Penn, after Penn State], so that’s really important going into playing Maryland and Rutgers,” Cellucci said. “Maryland is a top-10 team, and Rutgers a top-25 team, so we need to be able to maintain possession and really limit our transitions that we’re giving up. That’s going to be a main focus here in practice.”
And focus on the keys is the important piece to the puzzle of Iowa’s game.
The Hawkeyes are optimistic about the weekend, despite the need for certain improvements after their Big Ten opener loss.
“[It’s] going to be a struggle against two Big Ten rivals,” sophomore Katie Birch said. “We definitely know how we have to move forward, and we definitely know what we have to come out with a lot of strength and a lot of character. But we’re very excited to be back out east again.”