Iowa field hockey looks to clinch yet another Big Ten win against Rutgers

With two conference wins under its belt, the Iowa field hockey team looks to add another win to that record as it faces Rutgers on Friday at Grant Field.

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Iowa field hockey looks to clinch yet another Big Ten win against Rutgers

Iowa midfielder Sophie Sunderland protects the ball during a field hockey game between Iowa and Columbia at Grant Field on Sunday, September 8, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Lions, 3-1.

Iowa midfielder Sophie Sunderland protects the ball during a field hockey game between Iowa and Columbia at Grant Field on Sunday, September 8, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Lions, 3-1.

Hannah Kinson

Iowa midfielder Sophie Sunderland protects the ball during a field hockey game between Iowa and Columbia at Grant Field on Sunday, September 8, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Lions, 3-1.

Hannah Kinson

Hannah Kinson

Iowa midfielder Sophie Sunderland protects the ball during a field hockey game between Iowa and Columbia at Grant Field on Sunday, September 8, 2019. The Hawkeyes defeated the Lions, 3-1.

Maddie McCarron, Sports Reporter

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As Big Ten play starts to heat up, the Iowa field hockey team will take on its third conference opponent this season in Rutgers at 2 p.m. on Friday at Grant Field.

The Hawkeyes are currently 5-1 at home this season and 2-0 in conference play. While the Scarlet Knights are off at a 0-1 start in the conference this season and are 2-2 on the road. 

Despite Rutgers’ record in the conference this year, Iowa isn’t taking it lightly. The last two years, the Scarlet Knights have emerged victorious from this matchup

“This is a big one,” said head coach Lisa Cellucci. “I think this is one of those games where we kind of have to get the monkey off our backs and take care of business at home.” 

The Hawkeyes’ defensive standings and ball possessions will play major parts in this Big Ten matchup. In their game against Michigan State last weekend, their defense left the Spartans scoreless while the Hawkeyes racked up five goals. 

“Our possession has been giving people a hard time all season long,” Cellucci said. “We’ve been able to control possession in most of our games, and I think if we execute well and take care of our penalty corners, that will hopefully put [Rutgers] under some pressure.” 

So far this season, some big scoring leaders for the Hawkeyes have been Sophie Sunderland with 5 goals, Katie Birch and Ellie Holley with 4 goals, and Maddy Murphy with 3 goals. 

The senior duo, Sunderland and Birch, have already staked out both individual and team key focuses they’ve set for the week leading up to the game. 

“I’m going to keep up my communication,” said Sunderland. “Something I’ve been lacking on a little bit lately has been my footwork on defense, especially on transition. So that will be something to focus on and put into practice.” 

RELATED: Hawkeyes face two ranked conference opponents

Birch noted that Rutgers isn’t going to throw in the towel when the game gets tough; it will be gritty. 

“They have some really strong players, I think we’ve got to match them and challenge them the entire way through. We know they’re going to come out hard and we just have to want it more,” she said. 

The Hawkeyes’ game plan is to stay focused on the simple things to be prepared for the game and to play as a team. 

“We’re just going to tackle it how we tackle every other game,” Birch said. “Keeping it as simple as possible, not trying to do anything special, just play our game and hopefully doing that we’ll get the finishes and the goals that we need.” 

The team is well into the season now and the one goal on its mind is taking down Big Ten teams to get to the tournament. 

“Everyone will be key players for us this weekend, but absolutely our midfield Birch and Sunderland, up front Murphy and Zelner, and then in the backfield, Gibson and Stribos,” said Cellucci. “And after this weekend, we’re just looking forward to the next Big Ten game.” 

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