No. 18 Hawkeyes set for Michigan State


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Iowa’s matchup with Michigan State on Saturday is a big game — a very big one. Perhaps the most important one the No. 18 Hawkeyes have played this year.

Why? The Spartans come to Grant Field sitting at third place in the Big Ten at 3-2, 8-9 overall; Iowa is one game behind at 2-3, 11-6 overall. Because this is the final regular-season game for both teams, it has strong implications for seeding in the Big Ten Tournament, which will begin Nov. 6.

Depending on the results of No. 14 Northwestern’s (14-4, 4-1) matchup with woeful Ohio State (5-11, 0-5) and Michigan’s (10-7, 2-2) contests with No. 6 Penn State (13-3, 5-0) and Indiana (9-8, 1-4), the Big Ten standings at week’s end could see the Hawkeyes finish as high as third and as low as fifth.
Postseason implications aside, this game comes with some added incentives for Iowa. Niki Schultheis described a budding rivalry with Sparty, saying its style of play is very emotional.

“In warm-ups, you can see them looking at us and things that we do, and we look at them and things that they do,” the senior said. “It’s a little bit of a rivalry there, so it would be really important to [win].

Kelsey Mitchell had sentiments similar to her fellow senior when it came to the topic of the team from East Lansing.

“They’re a really rowdy team, and they definitely use momentum in their favor,” the Berlin, N.J., native said. “When things go their way, they’re really loud and in your face and things like that. So I think it’ll be key to not allow them to get that momentum to keep us calm and so we can keep our poise.”

In addition to maintaining their composure, a key for the Hawkeyes will be containing Michigan State’s top two scorers — forwards Abby Barker and Allie Ahern. The duo comes in with a combined 43 points, including 10 goals apiece.

Last season, Iowa defeated the Spartans twice and only allowed 1 goal total in the contests, which came from Barker in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal on Nov. 1, 2012.

“They have a couple really explosive players that play on the forward line,” head coach Tracey Griesbaum said about Barker and Ahern. “We need to contain basically their top-two goal scorers. I think a lot of it will be having awareness of their strengths.”

The statistics favor Griesbaum’s squad.

Iowa has an advantage when it comes to scoring goals. The Hawkeyes are first in the Big Ten in goals per game with an average of 3.47, while Michigan State scores 2.47 and allows 2.12 goals per game —second to last in the league.

The Hawkeyes also have the luxury of fifth-year senior Kelsey Boyce in net. Boyce has a .707 save percentage, good for third in the Big Ten. Spartan goalkeeper Molly Cassidy ranks fourth with a .676 percentage.

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