Iowa preps for Ball State


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The Iowa field-hockey team has played one of the toughest schedules in the country this season.

Slated No. 7 in the latest RPI rankings, the Black and Gold have taken on such powerhouses as North Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest, and Stanford in the last couple of weeks, and mostly on the road.

So in that context, a Friday night home game against Ball State doesn’t seem all that exciting. After all, the last time these two teams met in preseason, it ended in an 11-0 drubbing by Iowa.

But don’t tell the Hawks that. For a team with a veteran coaching staff and more than a few seasoned players, every opponent presents a new challenge, and they know that the team they take lightly could be the one that comes back to bite them in the end.

“Ball State is a respectable opponent, no doubt about that,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “You’ve got to make sure you get that win first before you start looking too far ahead.”

And while the real test might not come until Oct. 5 when Northwestern rolls into town, Cellucci and the team take things one game at a time, as always.

“We know Northwestern is a good team, but all we’re focused on right now is Ball State,” goaltender Alex Pecora said. “We’re definitely not overlooking them, and we’re going to do what we usually do to prepare for both teams.”

Pecora was encouraged by her team’s performance against their last nonconference opponent, a 7-0 win Sunday over Missouri State at Grant Field.

“It was a great win, but more than that, it was great to see a lot of our players who don’t usually get to play as much come out and contribute,” Pecora said.  “It shows a lot, I think, about our depth and the amount of preparation we put into each game.”

It was Iowa’s fourth win in a row, and their third straight at home, a stretch during which the Black and Gold have outscored their opponents by almost an unimaginable 19-2 mark.

Still, the Oct. 5 contest with the Wildcats looms large in the back of everyone’s minds, including freshman forward Mallory Lefkowitz, who scored the first goal of her Hawkeyes career in the win over Missouri State.

“We don’t want to overlook anyone, but I definitely think on Friday that we’re going to try to get everything together in preparation for a Big Ten game,” Lefkowitz said.  “Whether you play one game or every game, when you go in and hustle and do your job, it pays off.”

Northwestern, which remains the only other Big Ten team bedside Iowa that has yet to lose a conference game, sports one of the lowest goals-against averages in the Big Ten, a stat that Iowa’s top-ranked offense will put to the test.  

“I think if we play our game and play how we practice, I think we are a really tough team to beat,” junior Natalie Cafone said.

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