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Must win games familiar territory for field hockey

BY RYAN RODRIGUEZ | OCTOBER 31, 2014 5:00 AM

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To keep its NCAA Tournament hopes alive, the Iowa field-hockey team will have to go on the road on Saturday to finish out the season against the second-best team in the nation, conference newcomer and perennial powerhouse Maryland.

No big deal, right?

Luckily for the Hawkeyes, the situation, while daunting, is far from unique.

The Black and Gold made a habit of it early on this season, defeating a handful of top-ranked teams including a dramatic 4-0 shutout win over No. 4 Penn State last weekend on Senior Day.

The Hawks know firsthand what it takes to get the job done against anyone in the country. Now, it’s just a matter of going out and doing it.

“Maryland is obviously different team than even Penn State, but they do have some similar strengths between them,” head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “When you can bring a similar game plan against numerous teams, it’s definitely an advantage going in.”

The Black and Gold ended a two-weeklong offensive skid against a Penn State defense that is one of the stingiest in the country, rattling off 4-straight goals to down the Nittany Lions on Senior Day at the Iowa Soccer Complex.

And while the atmosphere in College Park won’t be quite so cordial for the Hawkeyes, the big-game experience matters the most.

“If we can keep the momentum going from last game, I think we’ll be just fine,” freshman Mallory Lefkowitz said. “If we’re able to come in with the same energy and click like we did last week, it should go well.”

Momentum aside, this is a vastly different team from the one that dropped three-straight conference games a few weeks ago.

A rejuvenated offense, to go along with an increased confidence level, has the Hawkeyes playing arguably their best field hockey of the season.

“We wanted to get them on their heels early, and I think sticking to that game plan and executing it like we wanted to is what’s helped us recently,” Lefkowitz said. “We passed well and stayed spread out the whole game as well.”

Lefkowitz, whose played the bulk of her minutes on the top forward line with junior Natalie Cafone and sophomore Steph Norlander, has been at the forefront of Iowa’s offensive explosion recently, and she wants to help continue the trend against the Terrapins.

“They’re a fast team with a lot of skill, so I think what we talked about communicating and passing off of each other is going to be huge against Maryland,” she said. “Staying wide and passing well are keys.”

Cafone will no doubt be one of the key factors for Iowa who Maryland will try to neutralize.

The reigning Big Ten scoring champ, Cafone broke into the top-10 all-time scoring list last at Iowa last week with a goal against Penn State.

And while the New Jersey native has struggled with man-marking at times this year, Cafone is confident that she and her teammates will be able to break through and find the back of the net this week in Iowa’s biggest game of the year.

“Now that we showed we can do it for a full 70 minutes, it’s something we know we’re capable of doing again this week,” Cafone said.


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