Field hockey tourney in focus


Iowa forward Natalie Cafone collides with Fairfield’s midfielder Jaclyn Gallagher during a field hockey game against Fairfield at Grant Field on Friday, September 2, 2016. The Hawkeyes defeated the Stags 4-1. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)

The Iowa field-hockey team heads to the Big Ten Tournament, which starts on Thursday.

By Michael mccurdy

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The Big Ten field-hockey regular season is over, and the seedings for the conference tournament have been released.

To no one’s surprise, Maryland and Penn State captured the top two seeds in the tournament. Maryland gets No. 8 Rutgers in the first round, and Penn State gets No. 7 Indiana.

For Indiana and Rutgers to come away victorious, they will have to play their best games of the year. Penn State and Maryland can outscore and out-defend every team in the conference, so it is going to boil down to whether it just so happens to be either the Hoosiers’ and Scarlet Knights’ lucky day.

The first game of the day belongs to No. 3 Michigan and No. 6 Michigan State. The contest starts at 10 a.m. — do not expect this one to be much of a game. Michigan State has struggled throughout most of the season defensively, while Michigan is fairly sound all around, which would point toward a Wolverine victory.

That leaves the last game of the day, which also happens to be best on paper. It will be No. 5 Iowa vs. No. 4 Northwestern — the rematch of the overtime thriller in Evanston that Iowa left victorious.

Both teams are hot right now, but the Hawkeyes are playing their best ball of the year, so if Iowa wins, hardly anybody will be calling it an upset.

The Hawkeyes also have an offensive weapon most teams only dream about in redshirt senior Natalie Cafone. Expect Cafone to leave her mark on the Big Ten in this tournament, showcasing to the country why she’s one of the top offensive players.

The result of these games lead to Friday, where the winner of Penn State and Indiana will play the winner of Michigan and Michigan State at 1 p.m.

Since it is common in conference tournaments for upsets to occur, it wouldn’t surprise anybody if Michigan came away from this side of the tournament defeating Penn State in a close match in which the Nittany Lions struggle to find the back of the net.

After that game at 4 p.m., the winner of the Maryland-Rutgers game will take on the winner of the Iowa-Northwestern tilt.

The Achilles heel for this Iowa team all season long has been its lack of depth and experience, which would more than likely come out in the game Friday against Maryland. The Hawkeyes all season have been able win games coming off days of rest, but they have struggled when playing back-to-back or even with one day’s rest. So expect the Terrapins to pull away from the Hawkeyes in this one.

That leaves the championship game, which is scheduled for Nov. 6 at noon EDT.

Championship Prediction

The contest will be between Maryland and a surging Wolverine squad hungry for an upset. Because of Maryland’s ability to control the game both offensively and defensively, the Terrapins will pull away in the second half to secure the win by a score of 3-1.

Field-hockey fans can catch all of the madness on the Big Ten Network.

Follow @MMccurd for more information on Iowa and Big Ten field hockey.

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