This weekend, a true “offense vs. defense” matchup dominates the storyline.
The No. 11 Iowa Hawkeyes come to Happy Valley this Sunday, bringing with them the toughest defense in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes have allowed only 1.30 goals per game, the best number in the conference so far this season.
“They get numbers below the ball, so it’s very difficult to get that four-to-three advantage we’re used to having,” coach Charlene Morett said. “They’re also very strong physically, and very well coached. [Iowa coach Tracey Griesbaum] is probably one of the best defensive minds in the game.”
Griesbaum has been the leader of the Iowa field hockey program for 13 seasons, and led them to three consecutive Big Ten tournament championships from 2006-2008.
While Iowa has a history of playing strong across the backline, the Nittany Lions boast by far the Big Ten’s most potent offensive unit. They rank first in scoring average (4.42), shots per game (22.57), goals scored per game (4.43) and penalty corners (129).
“We’ve been doing a great job of working the ball up the field the last few games,” senior forward Kelsey Amy said. “If we just utilize our speed and our spacing, we’ll have some good success against them.”
The Lions’ spacing will be key going up against such a strong, physical defense. Normally, the forwards will take on defenders one-on-one and use superior stick skills to get by them. But with the Hawkeyes, things are a little different, and Amy knows she’ll have to make some adjustments.
“Instead of going right at them and engaging them, I’ll have to utilize my spacing, get around them, and use my speed to burn them that way,” Amy said.
Aside from dealing with a strong defense, Morett also discussed how her midfield will manage an experienced Iowa mid that features several seniors.
“They have some great leadership, they’ve been building that group of seniors for awhile,” Morett said. “Our mids are going to have their hands full.”
“I think it’s going to be an enjoyable game to watch,” midfielder Hannah Allison said. “We can be pretty physical too, it’s going to be a dogfight the whole game.”
The team will also be involved with the second annual “Clash of the Classes” this weekend, where alumni of the field hockey prom compete in a friendly contest. Teams are based on what year the players graduated, with odd years taking on even numbered years.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Morett said. “And last year ended in penalty strokes, so we’ll see what happens.”