No. 9 Hawkeyes Ready for Big Ten Tournament

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The ninth-ranked University of Iowa field hockey team faces No. 7 Penn State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Sunday, Oct. 28 at 11 a.m. (CT) in Univeristy Park, Pennsylvania. 

Iowa field hockey fans can follow all contest via live stats on Click on the
“Live Stats” link found on the field hockey schedule page to access the live stats feed. Fans can follow @IowaFieldHockey on Twitter for live in-game updates. 

Iowa’s Sunday quarterfinal matchup against No. 7 Penn State will be televised on BTN. 

• Iowa has controlled games and limited shots for most of the season. Iowa’s 112 first-half shots and 57 first-half penalty corners are more than their opponents’ total shots (99) and penalty corners (51). 
• The Hawkeyes finished the regular season 6-2 at home, 8-1 against non-conference opponents, and 5-5 against top-25 opponents. All five of Iowa’s losses this year came against top-25 opponents with four of the five coming by only one goal. Three losses were against top-10 opponents (No. 2 North Carolina, No. 6 Michigan, and No. 2 Maryland). 
• The Hawkeyes are 8-0 when scoring at least three goals this season. 
• Sophomore Maddy Murphy leads the team in goals (13), points (32), and game-winning goals (4). Murphy’s 13 goals are second most in the Big Ten, while her 32 points are fourth most. Murphy’s sophomore campaign has featured her first career hat trick against No. 6 Penn State, a seven-point game with three assists against Dartmouth, and two stretches where she scored a goal in three straight games.
• Katie Birch leads the team in assists (9), shots attempted (50), and is tied with Murphy for most shots on goal with 29. 
• Sophie Sunderland is third on the team in goals (6) and points (16). 

• Penn State has won three straight games to finish the regular season 12-4 and 6-2 in conference play. On Oct. 12 at Grant Field, Iowa handed Penn State its second Big Ten loss behind Maddy Murphy’s first career hat trick. 
• Seeded third in the Big Ten Tournament, Penn State eliminated Iowa, 5-1, in the first round of the conference tournament last year. The Nittany Lions lost in the Big Ten Championship last season after claiming the tournament title in 2016.
 • Head coach Charlene Morett-Curtiss is in her 32nd season at Penn State, owning a 483-188-8 record at the helm of the Nittany Lions. Morrett-Curtiss has led the Nittany Lions to eight straight NCAA Tournament appearances. 
•  Goalkeeper Jenny Rizzo has the third most saves in the Big Ten with 63, while Penn State’s offense as recorded the most shots in the conference with 304. Led by Anna Simon’s six goals, Penn State’s offense features seven student-athletes who have scored at least five goals. 

In a conference that features seven top-25 opponents, Iowa finished .500 (4-4) to tie for fourth with Rutgers and Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the conference slate with a 3-0 win over Indiana, followed by wins over Michigan State, No. 23 Ohio State, and No. 6 Penn State. Iowa finished the season with six straight ranked opponents, winning three of them. Murphy’s five goals and Birch’s four assists lead the Hawkeyes in conference play. Iowa more than double their Big Ten opponents in shots (93-42) and penalty corners (47-23), but failed to capitalize at key moments. 

Iowa dropped its regular season finale against Rutgers, 1-0, on Friday, Oct. 19. It was only the second time in 17 games Iowa’s offense was shutout. The Hawkeyes had chances late in the second half, registering six straight penalty corners to no avail. Iowa outshot Rutgers 10-3 including six second-half shots. 

Iowa has won five Big Ten Tournament titles (1981, 1994, 2006, 2007, and 2008) in program history, including a three-peat from 2006-08. Along with Penn State and Michigan, Iowa is one of three schools to win five or more tournament titles. Iowa is 29-20 all-time at the Big Ten Tournament, which are the most wins by any Big Ten school. The Hawkeyes fell to Penn State, 5-1, in the first round of last year’s Big Ten Tournament. Iowa’s last conference tournament win was in 2013 against Michigan. 

Six Hawkeyes have scored at least three goals, while 11 different Hawkeyes have scored a goal this season. Of Iowa’s 43 goals, 35 have been assisted on. Katie Birch leads the team with nine assists — tied for the fourth most in the Big Ten, while six other Hawkeyes have at least three assists. 

The Hawkeye defense has been outstanding all season long allowing just 0.86 goals per game, good for fourth in the nation and tops in the Big Ten. Iowa’s defense has allowed only 99 shots and 51 penalty corners in 17 games this season. Iowa’s offense has recorded 229 shots — the fifth most in the Big Ten — and 106 penalty corners. Junior goalkeeper Leslie Speight’s seven shutouts are the most in the Big Ten and her .750 save percentage is third best in the conference. 

Seven Big Ten schools — No. 2 Maryland, No. 7 Penn State, No. 8 Michigan, No. 9 IOWA, No. 10 Rutgers, No. 22 Northwestern, and No. 23 Ohio State — are ranked in the latest Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I National Coaches Poll. Iowa has moved up 11 spots since being ranked 20th in the preseason rankings on Aug. 20. The Hawkeyes finished the regular season facing 10 top-25 opponents and four top-10 opponents. Iowa is 5-5 against ranked opponents this season with wins over No. 14 Wake Forest, No. 25 California, No. 23 Ohio State, No. 21 Stanford, and No. 6 Penn State. All of Iowa’s losses this season were from ranked opponents with four of them coming by only one goal.

All seven freshman have seen the field this season. Freshmen Anthe Nijziel and Lokke Stribos have started all 17 games and have played a key part in the Hawkeye defense. Nijziel, who earned Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week on Sept. 17, has 10 points on four goals and two assists this season. Stribos recorded her fourth assist in Iowa’s 3-2 win over No. 6 Penn State. Freshmen have accounted for six goals and six assists this season. 

Three Hawkeyes — freshman Anthe Nijziel, junior Katie Birch, and most recently sophomore Maddy Murphy — have earned Big Ten weekly honors this season. Murphy was named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 15. She recorded her first career hat trick in Iowa’s 3-2 win against No. 6 Penn State. Murphy’s trio of goals and seven-point weekend marked Iowa’s first win over Penn State since 2014 and first victory over a top-10 opponent since 2016. In mid-September, Nijziel earned Co-Freshman of the Week and Birch earned Defensive Player of the Week for their efforts led that Hawkeyes to back-to-back shutout wins over Penn and Indiana. 

Former two-time first team All-Big Ten selection and three-time Big Ten Tournament Champion, Roz Ellis, is back with the Hawkeyes as an assistant coach. Ellis started all 83 games of her career, scored 14 goals, and recorded 11 assists from 2005-08. Ellis was an assistant coach at five different schools before returning to her alma mater. As a senior and team captain in 2008, Ellis anchored a Hawkeye defense that reached the Final Four, which was Iowa’s first appearance since 1999.

Following a win on Sunday, Iowa would face second-seeded Michigan or seventh-seeded Northwestern on Friday, Nov. 2 in the semifinals. The semifinals and the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament scheduled are hosted by Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois, at Lakeside Field on Friday, Nov. 2 and Sunday, Nov. 4.

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