2004 Big Ten Conference Field Hockey Tournament Previews
Nov. 2, 2004
Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline is the backdrop for this year's Big Ten Conference Women's Field Hockey Tournament. Northwestern's Leonard B. Thomas Athletic Complex is the venue for this year's tournament which starts Friday, November 5th with three first round match-ups. Michigan State returns to the tournament this year as the defending champion and this year's number three seed. The Spartans finished the season along with Iowa and Michigan as tri-champions of the Big Ten regular season. Michigan earned the first round bye and number one seed based on tie-breakers, followed by Iowa, MSU, Penn State, Ohio State, Indiana and the host Wildcats. The semifinals are slated for Saturday, November 6th with matches at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. The tournament championship game is slated for 1:00 pm on Sunday, November 7th and will be broadcast by CSTV on tape delay.
#1 Michigan Wolverines
It took several tiebreakers to determine the number one seed in this year's Big Ten Conference field hockey tournament. After tying with Michigan State and Iowa for the regular season title the Maize and Blue were tabbed the top seed in the tourney because of their total goal differential in conference games.
The Wolverines will have the first day of the tournament off and will face the winner of the four versus five match between Penn State and Ohio State on Saturday. Both teams fell to Michigan 1-0 in the final two games on Michigan's schedule. The top slot and the bye also favor the Wolverines because they would not face Iowa until a potential championship game on Sunday. The Hawkeyes defeated U-M, 4-3, in overtime on October 10th.
Shots, goals and assists are just a few of the statistical categories in which the Wolverines finished first in the Conference. In addition, they are ranked third in the conference in penalty corners with 142. Michigan is the only school in the league to feature three players in the top ten in points with senior midfielder Jessica Blake, senior forward Adrienne Hortillosa and sophomore forward Katie Morris tallying 43, 37 and 29 points this year respectively. Hortillosa and Blake are also ranked first and second in the Big Ten in game winning goals with six for Hortillosa and five for Blake.
#2 Iowa Hawkeyes
The second of the three regular season conference champions, the Hawkeyes enter the Big Ten Conference Tournament as the number two seed and will play the opening game of the tournament on Friday at 10:00 am. In the opener, Iowa draws the host team Northwestern who got the better of the Hawkeyes in an early season non-conference match up but won their conference game on October 29th.
One of the strengths of the Iowa team is goalie Barb Weinberg. In 2004 the net minder made 114 saves - the second highest total in the league. Weinberg also ranked second in saves-per-game with 7.12 and added four shutouts this season. In the six inter-league contests this season, Iowa held the team scoring title with 16 goals scored. On offense, Sarah Dawson is the team leader in points and assists with 33 and nine respectively while the team has taken 112 penalty corners on the year.
If the Hawkeyes survive their rubber-match with the Wildcats, the winner of Michigan State and Indiana awaits them in the semifinals. Iowa fell to the Spartans on October 23rd and defeated the Hoosiers on September 26th. Having won eight of their last nine, the Hawkeyes are one of the hotter teams entering this weekend's postseason tournament.
#3 Michigan State Spartans
Two overtime losses are all that separated the Spartans from an undefeated season in 2004. Wake Forest and Michigan each needed an extra stanza to defeat the tri-champions of the Big Ten. Wrapping up the defending tournament champions may prove to be just as tough a test for the rest of the conference in the upcoming tournament.
MSU trailed only Michigan in both goals and assists this season with 59 goals on 37 assists. However, the Spartans topped U-M in the important goals-per-game stat by the slimmest of margins with MSU averaging 3.47 a game and the Wolverines tallying 3.42. In addition, Michigan State was the top defensive team in the conference statistically, allowing only 19 goals on the season. On penalty corners the Spartans had 148 opportunities to average a league high 8.71 per-game.
Senior forward Veerle Goudswaard is the top scoring threat in the conference after winning the Big Ten scoring title with a 56 point senior campaign that included 26 goals. With 11 assists to tie for the Big Ten lead, junior midfielder Jessica Miller has been a vital part of MSU's success and will hope to keep dishing out assists through out the tournament. Junior goalie Christina Kirkaldy will be between the pipes for the Spartans and allowed a league-low 19 goals in 2004.
#4 Penn State Lady Lions
Eight shutout wins headlined the Lady Lions' 2004 regular season schedule - the most of any team in the Big Ten. Junior goaltender Megan Akstin had six of those shutouts while ranking second in the league with a 1.19 goals-against-average.
Penn State draws the toughest assignment in the opening round as the fourth seeded Lady Lions face the fifth seed from Ohio State. Penn State prevailed over the Buckeyes on September 25th by a 3-1 score and will try and duplicate that success in the opening round on Friday. Penn State comes into Evanston after losing two of their last three including a 1-0 nail biter to Michigan - its potential semifinal opponent - in the season finale October 30th.
On offense, the Lady Lions feature one of the most relentless attacks in the conference. Penn State blasted 318 shots-on-goal, enough for second in the league. Corners were a big reason for the high shot totals for PSU. With 153 penalty corners, it led the league and will need to create those same opportunities this week to advance in the tournament.
#5 Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes enter the Big Ten Tournament having lost three of their last four to finish the season at .500 overall. A chance to avenge a midseason loss to the Lady Lions awaits OSU in the opening round with a showdown against top seeded Michigan to follow - for the winner of the OSU-PSU battle.
Sophomore forward Curlynne Wynn leads the team with 17 points on the season including eight goals. Wynn and freshman forward Yecenia Luces - who has seven goals and 15 points this season - will both need to be on and give Ohio State some points. In addition, the Buckeyes boast five players who scored in double figures in 2004 with sophomore defender Saskia Mueller and sophomore forwards Lauren Kruse and Florencia Steir each racking up at least 13 points on the year. As a team, the Buckeyes had 125 penalty corners which was fifth in the league.
Anchoring the OSU defense will be junior goalie Lindsay Williams. The junior was the only player in goal the entire season for the team and led the Big Ten in minutes played for goaltenders with just over 1,352 minutes of action. During that time Williams notched two shut outs and tallied league highs in total saves with 130 and saves-per-game at just over seven.
#6 Indiana Hoosiers
The Hoosiers enter the 2004 women's field hockey tournament having won five of their last six and two in a row. The team's only loss in that time span was to their first round opponent - Michigan State.
While the Spartans are near the top in many statistical categories, IU is not far behind. In goals scored, Indiana tied for third in the Big Ten at 43 and third in total points at 116 while in penalty corners they ranked fourth at 136. Forwards Lydia Schrott and Frederique Meeuwen are in the top 10 in the league in points at 24 and 22 respectively. A sophomore, Schrott has proven that she is one of the top passers in the league after ranking third this season with 10.
In 19 games this season, senior goaltender Katie Kanara allowed only 32 goals in almost 1,300 minutes on the field. Additionally, Kanara saved 92 shots - good enough for third in the conference and pitched two shutouts on the season. Kanara will have to be at the top of the game to stop one of the top shooting teams in the conference.
#7 Northwestern Wildcats
Some would argue that of all the teams in this year's field at the Big Ten Conference tournament, that Northwestern has the biggest edge of them all. Home field advantage can mean a lot to a team, particularly in the postseason. Despite a 4-5 home mark this year, NU will hope to propel itself to a Big Ten tournament title with the help of the home crowd.
The Wildcats ranked fifth in the conference in points this season at 104, just five behind their first round opponent Iowa, however, N-U bested the Hawkeyes in penalty corners with 119 compared to Iowa's 112. A key for Northwestern will be to take more shots-on-goal. During the regular season they only managed 217 shots. Senior forward Candice Cooper provided the majority of those with her league leading 112 shots this season. All those attempts translated into 42 points for the forward including 19 goals which ranked second in the Big Ten. The senior was one of only two players in the league to average at least a goal a game during the regular season.
In the Wildcats October 19th loss to Iowa, Cooper scored two first period goals that were erased by a late Hawkeye comeback. This time around, Cooper will hope to provide the offense once again while sophomore goalie Sherri-Anne Nyberg supplies the defense. Nyberg allowed only 26 goals in 15 games in 2004 and added three assists to her resume this year while averaging just over four saves-per-game.