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Iowa field hockey set for Big Ten Tournament

BY NICK SZAFRANSKI | NOVEMBER 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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The last time the Iowa field-hockey team played Indiana was less than three weeks ago in Iowa City, when the Hawkeyes were fighting to end a four-year drought on Senior Day.

That game, on Oct. 15 in Iowa City, ended with a 4-2 win for the Black and Gold. But midfielder Jessica Barnett wasn't satisfied.

"I think we were very fortunate to win that game," the junior said.

Iowa will play Indiana again today — and the stakes are much higher.

No. 4-seed Iowa (14-3, 4-2 Big Ten) will take on No. 5-seed Indiana (9-7, 2-4) in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament today at 9 a.m. on Penn State's campus in University Park, Pa.

Barnett said the Hawkeyes' recent game against the Hoosiers showed several holes the team needed to fix — and she said she thinks those holes have been filled.

"We definitely can't afford to give any defensive penalty corners up the way we did [on Oct. 15]," Barnett said. "We were very lucky [to come out with the win]. That's something we'll be looking to do."

The Senior Day victory against the Hoosiers was the third in Iowa's current six-game winning streak. The run includes wins at No. 15 Ohio State and No. 20 Northwestern.

Having its performance peak around tournament time is essential to the team's success, and the Hawkeyes — ranked 11th in the nation — are doing just that, head coach Tracey Griesbaum said.

"We're fit enough, [and] we're healthy. Our players on the field at any given time know what's expected, [and] they're attempting to execute at the best of their ability," she said. "We're hitting a really good stride right now."

After two-consecutive losses to Penn State (4-2 Big Ten) and Michigan (5-1), Iowa rattled off three-consecutive conference wins to find itself at 4-2 in the conference and tied for the second spot in the league standings. The Hawkeyes finished the regular season 14-3, their most wins since 2007.

"[The season] is a huge success," Griesbaum said. "We went from no wins last season to four in the conference. I'm very pleased with the results. We tied for second, and the tiebreaker is pre-set and out of our control. We are what we are."

Iowa finished in a three-way tie with Penn State and Ohio State in the Big Ten standings, behind No. 1-seed Michigan.

Big Ten rules grant a tiebreaker to the team that performed best when playing other teams than those knotted up in the tie. In this case, Ohio State — which beat Michigan earlier in the season — was awarded the second seed. After one team is eliminated from the tiebreaker, the next seed is determined by head-to-head matchups; No. 3-seed Penn State beat Iowa, 3-0, on Sept. 25. at Grant Field.

The winner of the Iowa-Indiana matchup will take on Michigan, ranked No. 7 in the nation, in the semifinal game on Friday at 9 a.m. The Hawkeyes lost, 2-0, when they visited Ann Arbor, Mich., on Oct. 1.

But the Black and Gold aren't looking that far ahead yet.

"We just want to score early [against Indiana]," junior Geena Lesiak said. "We want to score as often as possible and deny them from getting attack."


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