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Iowa field hockey to take on Central Michigan

BY NICK SZAFRANSKI | SEPTEMBER 16, 2011 7:20 AM

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The No. 12 Iowa field-hockey team will face Central Michigan Saturday in the first match of a two-game weekend. Iowa is looking to knock out its final two nonconference opponents before heading into Big Ten play.

Although the Black and Gold haven't struggled much this season — with the exception of a 2-0 loss to current No. 1 North Carolina on Aug. 28 — head coach Tracey Griesbaum said her Hawkeyes (6-1) have room to improve.

"We just want to improve our ability to convert," she said. "We want a higher conversion rate from inside the 25 [yard-line] to the corners, and from the corners to the goals … We want higher percentages on all of our outcomes. Our transition game will be a focus for the weekend."

Despite not being in conference play yet, Iowa is leading Big Ten teams in numerous categories. The Hawkeyes have the league's best marks in goals scored (24), scoring average (4.0 goals per game), and margin of victory (2.67 goals per game).

Sophomore forward Kim Scraper also leads the Big Ten in goals scored, with 12, and she has been named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week twice in a row.

And with conference play just around the corner — No. 7 Penn State (3-3) and Michigan State (2-5), which received votes in the last poll, will visit Iowa City next weekend — junior back Jessica Barnett said Iowa's final tune-ups will be vital.

"It's important for us to keep applying the things we have been training and making appropriate changes to be prepared to the best of our ability for conference play," Barnett said. "The Big Ten is one of the most competitive conferences in the nation, so we have to come ready to play every game. It would be great to get two wins this weekend — giving us momentum into our conference play."

Although the Hawkeyes have a 6-0 all-time record against Central Michigan, Griesbaum said Iowa can't afford to take the Chippewas lightly. After all, the Hawkeyes barely squeezed out a 1-0 win against the squad last year in Mount Pleasant, Mich.

"Our games with them haven't come easy to us the past few years," Griesbaum said. "You will always get their very best performance, and they always get up for their game against Iowa. They have skill in every line and speed."

After Central Michigan, Iowa will play Missouri State at 1 p.m. on Sept. 18 at Grant Field. The Hawkeyes have had success against the Bears, going 14-0 at home and 23-4-1 overall.

Again, though, Iowa isn't going to overlook Missouri State — especially because of its top-20 ranking.

"It's definitely motivating being ranked No. 12 in the country because we know we have a target on our backs," sophomore Kelsey Mitchell said. "We need to continue working hard every day in order to stay in that position."


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