No. 2 Iowa field hockey and No. 6 Penn State will square off twice this weekend at Grant Field in Iowa City.
Both teams have yet to lose a game in 2021-22.
“[The Nittany Lions] are super fit and super fast,” Hawkeye head coach Lisa Cellucci said. “So, we will have to be able to defend well as a team and be able to take our opportunities when we get the chance.”
Friday’s matchup between the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions will count toward the Big Ten standings, while Sunday’s match will be considered a nonconference game.
Last season, Iowa played doubleheaders against Big Ten opponents every weekend because of COVID-19. In those doubleheaders, one game counted toward the Big Ten standings and the other was logged as a nonconference game — much like the Hawkeyes’ two matchups with the Nittany Lions this weekend will.
Iowa lost the first legs of three doubleheaders last year. This weekend, the Hawkeyes are determined to win the first game of their doubleheader against the Nittany Lions to improve their record in Big Ten play.
“We are solely focused on Friday because that’s the one that counts in the Big Ten [standings],” Cellucci said. “So, we will be guns blazing for that match.”
Iowa, Penn State, and No. 1 Michigan are the only Big Ten teams that have not lost a game in 2021-22.
RELATED: Iowa field hockey looking to contend in loaded Big Ten
The Nittany Lions have already won a lot of close games this season. Penn State defeated Virginia and Maryland on Aug. 27 and Sept. 18, respectively. The Nittany Lions beat both the Cavaliers and the Terrapins in overtime by 3-2 margins.
The Hawkeyes will rely on first-half scoring to defeat the Nittany Lions this weekend.
“It’s important for us to get ahead early in the first quarter,” senior forward Ciara Smith said. “We have to come into the game strong mentally with fire and determination.”
The Hawkeyes scored four first-half goals in their victories over No. 4 Louisville and Indiana last weekend.
Iowa claimed 1-0 wins in its two matchups with Penn State in 2020-21. Both of Iowa’s victories over Penn State came at a neutral site in Virginia Beach, Virginia, last year. The Hawkeyes haven’t played a non-neutral site game against the Nittany Lions since Oct. 13, 2019, when Iowa fell, 4-1, to Penn State at the Nittany Lions’ field hockey complex in University Park, Pennsylvania.
“For us, it’s not about focusing on Penn State because, at the end of the day, we are Iowa and we know what our standard is,” Smith said. “We need to just be able to put together a complete 60 minutes of hockey.”
Friday’s game between the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions will begin at 6 p.m. Sunday’s Iowa-Penn State match is set for noon. Both games will stream live on BTN+.
Iowa’s first crack at No. 1 Michigan will come at Grant Field Oct. 15.
The Big Ten Tournament will be played Nov. 4-7, with the NCAA Division I Women’s Field Hockey Championships to follow Nov. 12-21.