Field hockey to face a familiar foe


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Seventh seed versus second seed.

Unranked versus the 12th-ranked.

Hawkeyes versus Wolverines.

The No. 7 seeded Iowa field-hockey team will travel to Evanston, Ill., to take on No. 2 seeded Michigan, also ranked No. 12 nationally, at 12:15 today in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

This will be the second meeting for the two conference rivals this season — on Oct. 10, Michigan (12-6) topped the Hawkeyes at Grant Field, 2-0.

Iowa (3-13) will take Lakeside Field on the campus of Northwestern against ex-Hawkeye head coach Marcia Pankratz and her Michigan squad, who nabbed a share of the regular season Big Ten title after going 5-1 in conference play.

The stiff competition didn't dampen the hopes of sophomore Sarah Drake, who said anything could happen in postseason play if the team comes together.

"I think that, obviously, we could win the whole tournament if we wanted to and if we come out to play," Drake said. "I think if we look to each other and build each other up during practices and during the game, then we'll be much more satisfied with our play if we do it together."

Head coach Tracey Griesbaum's squad has a rich history in the 17th edition of the event, winning three of the last four Big Ten Tournaments it has competed in.

Iowa has won four total postseason championships — just one of four Big Ten teams to reach this mark.

Aside from program history, the Hawkeye-Wolverine matchup has a particular familiarity. The two squads have squared off in five of the last six Big Ten Tournaments.

With 16 games under the players' belts, sophomore Jess Barnett said, she expects the increase in experience among the young roster to shine through this weekend and make for a much more confident team on the field.

The Hawkeyes' leading goal scorer echoed Drake's prediction that despite the season record, the Big Ten Tournament title is still up for grabs.

"I think we have to go in with a positive attitude thinking anything can happen," Barnett said. "I mean, if we win the first game, essentially we can win the whole tournament. So just keeping a positive attitude."

Griesbaum said her team has the same "clean slate, new season, 0-0 record" mentality going into this year's postseason.

The 11-year coach said even though field-hockey is a team sport, she is trying to place a higher emphasis on individual skill-sets to prevent a single player from doing too much.

"I think the players who come out here and are competitive have been a little bit worn down because they're trying to do a lot of extra work for other people," Griesbaum said. "I think we just have to learn about individual responsibility and everyone sharing the workload."

The winner of the Iowa-Michigan matchup will advance to play the winner of the Penn State-Indiana contest. That second semifinal game will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday and will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

Despite the "disappointing" season, Griesbaum said she expects her team to maintain a high level of intensity in postseason play.

"I think bottom line is they have to be competing," she said. "It's no time to stop. It's not over till it's over, and right now, it's not over."

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