Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament Play kicks off Friday
Nov. 2, 2005
The 2005 Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament kicks off Friday, November 4th at 10:00 a.m., at the University of Iowa's Grant Field. The tournament features six of the country's top 15 teams. With an undefeated regular conference season, Big Ten Champion Penn State earned the No. 1 seed and a first round bye. Defending tournament champion Michigan returns as this year's fourth seed, and faces Iowa in a 2004 championship final rematch with Iowa in Friday's opening round. Three first round match-ups will determine the semifinal opponents for Saturday's games, which are slated for Saturday, November 5th with matches at 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The championship game is set for Sunday, Nov. 6, at 1 p.m., and will be televised by College Sports Television on a tape-delay basis. CSTV will broadcast the championship game on Tuesday, Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. EST.
No. 1 Penn State Nittany Lions
The Penn State Nittany Lions hope to continue their dream season at the Big Ten Conference Tournament, and enter as the top seed for the first time since 1998 after clinching the outright conference title with a thrilling overtime win against Indiana.
The Hoosiers, who were competing for a share of the league's regular trophy, jumped to an early lead, but after fighting back three times to tie, the Lions claimed sole possession of the Big Ten Championship - the fourth in program history - on Kiersten Wood's game-winning goal in the 75th minute that gave the Lions a momentous 4-3 victory.
After finishing last season at .500 and missing the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in tournament history, Penn State opened the season with a loss to Old Dominion. But the resilient Lions made a complete turnaround, claiming every match-up on their schedule until losing a thrilling 4-3 overtime contest to the nation's No. 4 squad, North Carolina, in their final regular season match of the season. Their 17 consecutive wins snapped a single-season record of 15 set more than a decade ago and matched a school record set from 1980-81. The streak included the Lions' undefeated run through conference play, the team's first-ever unblemished conference season.
Spearheaded by scoring leader sophomore Shaun Banta, the Lions' capable offense led the league, outscoring opponents 68-18 throughout the season. Wood, last year's Big Ten Freshman of the Year, is fourth in the conference in assists and earned the season's final Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honor for her performance in the come-from-behind overtime win against Indiana. Their stingy defense, which has accounted for a Big Ten-best nine shutouts, is led by goalkeeper Megan Akstin's outstanding goals-against average of 1.03 on the season.
The top-seeded Lions receive a bye for the first round of the tournament, and will face the winner of the first round battle between fourth-seeded Michigan and fifth-seeded Iowa in the first semifinal on Saturday, Nov. 5, at 11 a.m. Penn State, ranked sixth in the latest national coaches poll, earns the first-round bye and will open tournament play on Saturday, Nov. 5.
No. 2 Indiana Hoosiers
After holding the underdog tag for most of their brief history, the new-look Indiana Hoosiers surprised everyone in 2005 except for themselves. In a year of firsts for the Hoosiers, who are ranked eighth in the country, their No. 2 seeding for the tournament is the program's highest position for the conference postseason competition. With a 4-2 conference record, the Hoosiers hope to build on their breakout year in league play and become the first Indiana team to win at the conference tournament and earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Their quest begins on Friday at 10:00 a.m., when they face No. 7 seed Northwestern.
Despite suffering a setback in their last regular-season conference match, the Hoosiers have been rewriting program history all season and making their place in the Big Ten. Their 14 wins are the most ever for a Hoosier squad, and they also carried the streak of consecutive games with a goal to an all-time high of 25.
Led offensively by senior Kayla Bashore and Lydia Schrott, who took over as the single-season goals leader with 12 scores this year, the team also set single-season records in goals (55) and assists (43). The Hoosiers' defense has been staunch, tying the record for most shutout victories in a season with five. With one more win, goalkeeper Hayley Exner, whose .810 save percentage leads the league, needs one more win to be named the Hoosiers all-time winningest goalkeeper. She is currently tied for the record with 14.
In the Hoosiers' previous meeting with the Wildcats this season, Indiana jumped to an early 2-0 lead before Northwestern scored at the end of the first half on a penalty corner. Bashore netted her 10th score of the season while the Hoosiers went on to win 3-1. If Indiana wins Friday, the Hoosiers face the winner of Game Three between third-seeded Ohio State and sixth-seeded Michigan State.
No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes
Record: 3-3 Big Ten Conference, 14-5 Overall
Head Coach: Anne Wilkinson
Opening Game: Friday, vs. Michigan State, 3:00 p.m. CT
In a rematch of the teams' final regular season games, the No. 3 seed Ohio State Buckeyes are looking to even the score against No. 6 seed Michigan State. The teams battled it out this past Saturday, and the Buckeyes are hoping the second time is a charm. After taking an early 1-0 lead on Saskia Mueller's eighth goal of the season, the Spartans attacked, scoring three more goals before the half. The Buckeyes climbed within one, but despite their 14-7 advantage in shots and 7-1 margin in penalty corners, were not able to capitalize for the win.
The Buckeyes, who won 12 straight before falling in their final three conference contests, boast one of the best offenses in the league. They hold the second-best scoring average in the Big Ten, behind only Penn State, and lead the league in assists. The Buckeyes' scoring attack is led by Yesenia Luces, whose 38 points on 11 goals are the best in the Big Ten. Right behind her in the league standings for points are teammates Lucy Clayton and Saskia Mueller. During their win streak, the Buckeyes outscored opponents 52-15 and held opponents to a .219 shot percentage, largely in part to goalkeeper Lindsay Williams' dominance. Her goals-against average of 1.55 ranks third in the conference.
In last year's tournament, the Buckeyes entered as the fifth seed and surged past Penn State in an exciting opening-round game before falling to eventual champion Michigan in their semifinal match-up. The Buckeyes hope to continue their first-round success when they meet the Spartans in the final game of the opening day at 3 p.m.
No. 4 Michigan Wolverines
Record: 3-3 Big Ten Conference, 12-6 Overall
Head Coach: Marcia Pankratz
Opening Game: Friday, vs. Iowa, 12:30 p.m. CT
Game two of the Big Ten Tournament will have many fans thinking "Déjà vu" when the defending tourney champion Michigan Wolverines face the fifth-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes in a rematch of last year's title game. The No. 10 Wolverines, who earned their third tournament crown in 2004 with a 3-2 win against the Hawkeyes, claimed back-to-back tournament titles in 1999 and 2000, and has advanced to the conference tournament's championship game six of the last seven seasons.
The two teams met this past Friday in an overtime battle that the Wolverines won 2-1 after being down for much of the game. The Wolverines rebounded in the second half and held the Hawkeyes to only one shot in the second half. Undefeated against the Hawkeyes in conference tournament action, Michigan won both previous match-ups in closely-fought, one-goal championship games during the 1999 tourney and last year's event.
Katie Morris leads Michigan's offensive attack with 25 points from 10 goals and five assists. Junior goalkeeper Beth Riley leads the conference with 106 saves while her four shutouts rank second and her .757 save percentage is good for third. Riley, who leads the Wolverines' all-time wins record, will need a strong defensive effort in a game that figures to be another tight match between these two squads. The game starts at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.
No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes
Record: 3-3 Big Ten Conference, 10-7 Overall
Head Coach: Tracy Griesbaum
Opening Game: Friday, vs. Michigan, 12:30 p.m. CT
Iowa freshman forward Cailtin McCurdy doesn't remember the Hawkeyes' loss to Michigan in last year's Big Ten Tournament final, but McCurdy, who leads the Hawkeyes with 11 goals - including three gamewinners - and 28 points, does remember her team's most recent setback against the Wolverines last week and is ready to lead the Hawkeyes when they try to even the score in the teams' first round meeting Friday.
McCurdy has provided a huge boost for the Hawkeyes this year. Her game-winning goal in overtime against the No. 8 Hoosiers earned her Offensive Player of the Week accolades for the second straight week. Another freshman, Lauren Pfeiffer, has also made a impact for the Hawkeyes. She has seven goals, two assists and a game-winning goal. Senior Debbie Birrell is another testament to the Hawkeyes' depth with eight goals and six assists for 22 points and one game winner to her credit. Iowa ranks fourth in the league in scoring average with 2.94 goals per game.
The Hawkeyes' defense is led by led by junior midfielder Heather Schnepf, who has five defensive saves this year, freshman goalie Lissa Munley. Another rookie with big first-year acoomplishments, Munley has started all 17 games this season and has stopped 73 shots for a .695 saves percentage.
These freshman will need career games in their first Big Ten Tournament game if the Hawkeyes are to advance past Michigan. The winner meets No. 1 seed Penn State in the first semifinal game Saturday at 11:00 a.m.
No. 6 Michigan State Spartans
After an impressive 2004 season, in which Michigan State claimed a share of the Big Ten Championship with a 5-1 conference record and made its second trip to the NCAA Tournament's final four in school history, the Spartans enter this year's Big Ten tournament as the No. 6 seed. The Spartans ended the regular season with three consecutive wins and hope to keep their streak alive for another postseason run.
The Spartans are ranked 15th in the country and are looking to prove that their first big win over the Buckeyes was no fluke. Leading them defensively between in the net is Christina Kirkaldy, who earned her seventh Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors for her performances against the Buckeyes and the Spartans' 2-1 win over Ohio last weekend. She made eight stops against the Buckeyes and followed that showing by stopping four shots against Ohio. Fourth in the league with a goals-against average of 1.55 and a save percentage of .744, Kirkaldy boasts a career record of 70-19 overall, with a Big Ten record of 17-7 - more wins than any other goalie in Spartan history.
The two squads face-off at 3:00 p.m. on Friday. The winner of the match will go on to face the victor in the second versus seventh-seed match between Indiana and Northwestern.
No. 7 Northwestern Wildcats
Not only do the Northwestern Wildcats face an Indiana team that has been playing possessed all season, but they are also rebounding from back-to-back setbacks - against the top two teams in the country - to end their regular season schedule. The Wildcats difficult schedule, which pitted them against 11 nationally ranked teams, saw seven match-ups decided by one goal.
While the Wildcats don't prefer heading into the Big Ten Tournament after two shutouts, they said the level of play was more important than the final score. Facing No. 1 Wake Forest and No. 2 Duke is exactly the primer coach Kelly McCollum said her team needs before facing conference foes who are all ranked within the nation's top 15. "I think this game served its purpose," McCollum said. "We played one of the best teams in the country and hopefully we've learned what we need to do to take our play to that next level."
Despite suffering offensive obstacles all season, the Wildcats' defense has done its part to keep the team within striking distance. Goalkeeper Sheri-Anne Nyberg leads the league with seven saves per game, and recorded nine saves while holding the Demon Deacons to one goal in the second half.
In last season's tournament, the Wildcats, who hosted the event, fell in the first round, but not before taking eventual runner-up Iowa to sudden-death overtime before the Hawkeyes pulled out a 3-2 win. Northwestern meets No. 2 seed Indiana in the tournament's first game Friday at 10:00 a.m.