The No. 4 Penn State field hockey team (15-3, 5-1) will look to take advantage of its No. 1 seed on Friday, as the squad will take on No. 11 and fifth-seeded Iowa in the semi-final round of the Big Ten tournament. Iowa defeated Michigan State, 2-1, in the first round thanks in part to a late game-winning goal from freshman Natalie Cafone.
The Nittany Lions defeated the Hawkeyes during the regular season, 5-1, walloping the Hawkeyes who came into the contest with the best defense in the Big Ten. It was the Lions' defense that would step up in the contest, however, as the squad constantly fed the ball upfield, allowing senior forward Kelsey Amy to earn a hattrick to pace the rout.
Iowa is one of the strongest squads in the Big Ten, though. While Penn State and Northwestern have led the conference for most of the season, Iowa has been right behind them. The Hawkeyes average the second most shots per game of any team in the conference with 18.33 (behind only Penn State, which averages 23 per game) while also packing a stout defense that allows just 1.5 goals per game (third in the conference). Iowa goalkeeper Kathleen McGraw also earned All-Big Ten honors.
Northwestern, arguably Penn State's biggest threat to a tournament championship, lost today. They were upset by seventh-seeded Indiana, 4-0. The loss opens the door for the Nittany Lions, whose only Big Ten loss during the regular season came from the strong Northwestern squad. While facing Iowa on their home field will be a tough challenge, having Northwestern eliminated from the tournament could open things up for the Lions.
Tournament coverage will continue throughout the weekend, with the finals for the tournament taking place on Sunday. Pick up the Collegian on Monday for details.