Defense key in remaining games

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Defense key in remaining games

UI Junior Stephanie Norlander attempts to move past defenders during a game against St. Louis on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. Norlander had a team high three goals in the 7-0 win. (The Daily Iowan/Sergio Flores)

UI Junior Stephanie Norlander attempts to move past defenders during a game against St. Louis on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. Norlander had a team high three goals in the 7-0 win. (The Daily Iowan/Sergio Flores)

UI Junior Stephanie Norlander attempts to move past defenders during a game against St. Louis on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. Norlander had a team high three goals in the 7-0 win. (The Daily Iowan/Sergio Flores)

UI Junior Stephanie Norlander attempts to move past defenders during a game against St. Louis on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015. Norlander had a team high three goals in the 7-0 win. (The Daily Iowan/Sergio Flores)

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The Iowa field-hockey team eyes improvements heading into its last four games of the season.

By Mario Williams

[email protected]

The Iowa field-hockey team sits at 8-6 overall, 1-3 in the Big Ten. And with four games left on the schedule, the squad’s last four games are much-needed victories, to say the least.

The Hawkeyes will return to Grant Field, where they will compete against Michigan State on Friday and Ohio State on Oct.18.

The team will also compete against Penn State and Maryland before the Big Ten Tournament.

Defense is paramount

All season, Iowa head coach Lisa Cellucci has noted how critical defense is. While being on the road in five contests, the Hawks have given up a total of 13 goals. Two of those games were back-to-back blowouts, 4-0, against Northwestern and No. 14 Michigan.

Iowa assistant coach Michael Boal believes that every aspect of playing defense will be key. Every player will be held accountable for keeping the ball in the goal, he said, as well as putting the ball in the opposition’s goal.

Boal also said the Hawks would approach defense a bit differently. Patience will be one of the many changes the squad will implant.

“We’ve have an unfortunate last two games, and it’s been uncharacteristic,” he said. “I think that if we do pay attention to individual defense and just concentrate on doing those things well, we’ll be fine.”

Defending Grant Field

The Hawkeyes have done a solid job not getting beat on its home field. The team is 4-1 at home, and defending Grant Field is a must.

Boal believes the Hawks play much differently at home than on the road, which may be true. The Hawkeyes finished 2-3 on their five-game road trip. He noted that there’s always a comfort playing at Grant because the Hawkeyes know they can play well on their field.

“Grant’s very special to us,” he said. “As long as we play the way that we can play and show what we can do, we’ll be fine.”

Youth playing key roles

It’s not a secret that the non-ranked program contains a lot of youth, which has hurt them in Big Ten play.

The Hawkeyes haven’t won against a conference opponent since beating Rutgers on Sept. 18.

To put this into perspective, their opponents are much more experienced and aggressive than the young squad.

One of the young athletes, freshman Makenna Grewe, said the experience has been a challenge, but it’s something that will benefit the young players in the future.

“The youth is going to be an important role,” Grewe said. “It’s been interesting to see how I compare to the other teams. I’ve definitely learned that it’s a really high-level conference, and you have to work hard and know the game plan.”

Tournament expectations

To snag a shot in the Big Ten Tournament in Bloomington, Indiana, the team will certainly need to improve and make a mark at Grant Field.

Iowa is ranked seventh in the conference and dropped out of the most recent coaches’ poll.

Each team the Hawkeyes will play during the last four games are all ranked higher in the conference than the Hawks, with the exception of the Nittany Lions.

“Thinking that it can be a possibility we don’t play in the tournament is terrible,” junior Stephanie Norlander said. “We’re going to win these games this weekend to make sure that we’ll be there.”

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