By Taylor McNitt
Entering this weekend, Iowa field hockey isn’t exactly where the squad had planned to be.
“Not at all,” said head coach Lisa Cellucci. “We definitely knew that we had a younger team and a very, very hard schedule, but we really thought that we’d be — record-wise, anyway — just in a little different spot.”
In the Big Ten, Iowa ranks tied for seventh with a record of 1-5.
In national rankings, Iowa sits at No. 25 with a record of 5-10, the lowest overall record in the Big Ten and of the ranked teams.
“Our goal was to finish in the top four [in the Big Ten] so that we could host the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, but we had some games not go our way,” Cellucci said.
Games against such opponents as No. 15 Wake Forest, New Hampshire, No. 23 Rutgers, and No. 9 Northwestern are some of the games Cellucci references.
Senior Mallory Lefkowitz, however, sees positives in the close losses against other teams, including No. 1 North Carolina, No. 13 Stanford, No. 2 Penn State, No. 2 Duke, and No. 4 Michigan.
“We’ve definitely been right there with all the teams we’ve maybe had some tough losses to,” she said. “I think we have a lot more to show, and that’s really exciting.”
In order to boost their standing, the Hawkeyes will need to pull out wins against Michigan State and No. 24 Ohio State. This afternoon, Iowa will face Michigan State in East Lansing.
“Playing Michigan State at their home will be tricky because they like to bring it,” said sophomore Katie Birch. “It was mentioned to us that it’s like a big fanfare; they go all out, which I’m quite excited to see. But obviously, I know it’ll get them pumped, which you never really want.”
Michigan State comes into the game with a Big Ten record of 2-4, ranked sixth in the Big Ten, with an overall record of 8-8.
The Spartan offense could be tricky for Iowa.
“They’re very aggressive, they’re very physical, they’re very strong,” Cellucci said. “They’re a tough team to play at [their] home; a lot of energy, getting a little bit crazy, so we have to really be able to manage the game, stay poised, and really just stick to the game plan. Two of our big emphases are our ability to sustain attack so we can wear them down and to just play great team defense in the final third.”
Ohio State on Oct. 22 at Grant Field will be another hurdle for the Hawkeyes, and the Buckeyes might be the tougher bet.
The Buckeyes have a Big Ten record of 1-5 but an overall record of 8-7, ranking them No. 24 nationally. Despite being defeated by Michigan State, they hold notable wins over No. 9 Louisville, No. 11 Stanford, and No. 18 Rutgers. The latter two teams beat Iowa.
The challenge for Iowa will be defending the Buckeyes’ strong offense and then breaking past their goalkeeper, senior Liz Tamburro, who has 78 saves and four shutouts this season.
“The great thing is, we still have a lot of hockey to play, and we have the chance to finish as high as fifth or as low as eighth,” Cellucci said. “The next two games are going to be really important to the tournament.”