Iowa field hockey starts Big Ten tournament against Michigan State


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It’s do-or-die time for the 11th-ranked Iowa field-hockey team.

The Hawkeyes begin their postseason today at Grant Field in the first round of the Big Ten field-hockey tourney. Knowing the tournament would be in Iowa City this season caused excitement to run through the veins of each Iowa player.

Now that it’s finally here, though, the fourth-seeded Hawkeyes are all business. They will open the tournament with an 11 a.m. start against the fifth-seed Michigan State, knowing full well what’s at stake when they take the pitch.

“We need to win to continue our season,” junior Kelsey Mitchell said. “We’re not looking ahead. We’re just preparing for another game.”

Iowa defeated the Spartans earlier this season, 1-0, during a September weekend trip to Michigan, where they also defeated Central Michigan. The final score wasn’t nearly as indicative as what the box score shone. The Hawkeyes dominated Michigan State, outshooting it, 18-7. They also earned a clear advantage in penalty corners at 9-2.

But both squads know that the Big Ten tournament causes all past results to be thrown out the window. Anything can happen. Upsets occur often — “The Big Ten tournament always has some surprise to it,” Hawkeyes’ head coach Tracey Griesbaum said — and the mindset each team has coming into this weekend is eerily similar: Everybody believes they can beat anybody.

“Every team is coming in here thinking they can win,” Griesbaum continued. “That’s why I think it’s so special to be a part of the Big Ten. There’s a lot of parity … It’s always going to come down to the end of the game, and who has put more goals in the net.”

Michigan State presents a different element for the Hawkeyes this time around. Griesbaum mentioned the Spartans will have their center-midfielder Becky Stiles back in the lineup, causing the Hawkeyes to scheme differently than they did on Sept. 21. Stiles left the team to compete with Team USA at the Junior Pan-American Championships.

Stiles has helped Michigan State set the tone on both offense and defense since her return. Her stats don’t show much — in 14 games this season, she’s only recorded 1 goal and 1 assist — but her leadership has made a difference for the Spartans.

The return of the opposing sophomore, though, isn’t all that will be different about today’s matchup. Iowa didn’t have defensive standout Karli Johansen in the first go-around — she, too, was competing at the Junior Pan-American Championships, only with Team Canada.

The return of Johansen has helped the Hawkeye defense immensely, and Griesbaum believes the return of both players will offset each other. This caused Iowa to game plan much of the same way that they have all season long.

But Iowa will be looking to do a bit more than just prepare for Michigan State. The Hawkeyes will be the first game out today, giving them the opportunity to set the tone for the rest of the tournament.
And that’s exactly what they plan on doing.

“Everybody is fired up,” sophomore Dani Hemeon said. “If we get a win against Michigan State, knowing we played to the best of our ability, it’ll help us begin a sort of uphill rise.”

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