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Hawkeye field hockey opens Big Ten play

BY NICK SZAFRANSKI | SEPTEMBER 23, 2011 7:20 AM

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Almost two years — 704 days, to be exact.

That's how long it has been since the Iowa field hockey team won its last Big Ten conference game.

"It's reality," head coach Tracey Griesbaum said. "Everyone knows what opportunity we have to open the Big Ten season … The intensity was real high at practice [Wednesday], and I think the [Hawkeyes] know full well the opportunity they have ahead of them."

No. 13 Iowa will host both Michigan State and No. 10 Penn State this weekend. The Hawkeyes (7-1) face the Spartans (3-5) today at 3 p.m. and the Nittany Lions (5-3) on Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. at Grant Field.

The Hawkeyes went 0-6 and finished last in the league last season.

"It's going to be a physical game," Griesbaum said. "Both teams have good size and strong athletes. We want to keep the ball as much in our front field as possible; our front field versus their back field will be a pretty good thing to watch."

Iowa is on a six-game winning streak heading into today's action, and is coming off a 10-2 thrashing of Missouri State on Sunday.

Forward Sarah Drake said she believes the team shouldn't look further ahead then one game, however.

"We are taking each game for what it is worth, but also having the mentality of leaving everything on the field," the junior said. "Each game is really important in the Big Ten because standings in the conference are so important. We want to be a first, second, or third top-seed in the [Big Ten] tournament and our ultimate goal is to make to NCAA's."

Including Iowa, four Big Ten teams are ranked in the national top 20. No. 10 Penn State is the highest, followed by No. 11 Michigan and No. 18 Indiana — all three of which the Hawkeyes will play in the next three weeks.

Griesbaum's squad has had plenty of success against the Spartans — Iowa is 16-6 all-time against Michigan State in Iowa City, and 45-11-1 overall.

"[Michigan State is] very balanced," Griesbaum said. "They have a good goalkeeper [Molly Cassidy has 58 saves]. They have the ability to really be strong with the ball, so they are pretty comfortable carrying it in their midfield. They have good shooters and will swing on the ball anywhere."

Junior midfielder Geena Lesiak noted Iowa has to take advantage of opening up its conference schedule at home.

"It is a territory-type thing," Lesiak said. "Both teams are coming to our field as a part of the Big Ten and everyone wants to be on top of the conference, so it's going to be a battle."


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