Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament Play kicks off Friday
Nov. 2, 2006
The 2006 Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament kicks off Friday, November 3rd at 10:00 a.m., at the University of Michigan's Phyllis Ocker Field. The tournament features four of the country's top 15 teams. No. 1 seeded Ohio State claimed its first-ever outright Big Ten Championship in program history while closing out the season with a 5-1 mark in conference play. For the second-consecutive year, Indiana earns the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, and faces No. #7 Michigan State in a regular season rematch that saw the Spartans take a 1-0 victory over the Hoosiers in Friday's opening round. Two time defending tournament champion Michigan returns as this year's fourth seed after closing out the regular season with a 4-2 mark. The Wolverines were the No. 4 seed last year when they swept the field to claim their second straight Big Ten Tournament title. Three first round match-ups will determine the semifinal opponents for Saturday's games, which are slated for Saturday, November 4th with matches at 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The championship game is set for Sunday, Nov. 5, 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. 7 at 5:30 p.m. EST.
The Buckeyes, who earned the first-round bye, enter the Big Ten Tournament winning their last six matches and are ranked fifth in the latest STX/NFHCA National Coaches poll. Ohio State closed out the season with a near perfect 5-1 mark in conference play and 14-2 overall.
No. 3 Penn State Nittany Lions
Penn State is the No. 3 seed with a 13-4 overall mark and ranked sixth in the latest national poll. The Nittany Lions nearly clinched a share of the conference regular-season title; however, PSU fell to Indiana in the final conference game to tie for second place in the team standings with a 4-2 Big Ten mark.
Goalkeeper Jen Beaumont has proven to be a wall in front of the net posting seven overall shutouts and allowing only seven goals in conference action. The Penn State attack is lead by sophomore midfielder Allison Scola who leads the conference in goals with six including three game-winners (five total) and forward Shaun Banta who leads the team with 13 goals on the season. The teams' three leading assist leaders are found on all three lines proving balance throughout with forward Jen Long, midfielder Scola and defender Mallory Weisen combining for 22 of Penn State's 37 assists.
No. 4 Michigan Wolverines
The No. 4 seed may be a blessing in disguise for Michigan. The Wolverines held the number four spot last year when they cruised to a 3-0 shutout of Indiana to claim their second consecutive Big Ten Tournament title. The Wolverine front line is led by junior Lucia Belass's who is having a break out year registering career highs in every scoring category with 10 goals, five assists and 25 points on the season. Michigan's 40 assists on the year make them second only to Ohio State. Senior Mary Fox contributed 11 assists in conference play placing her in a three way tie for second in the Big Ten. This year she climbed to the fifth spot among U-M's all-time assist leaders with 28 and only needs three more assists to reach the fourth position. With seven saves in the regular-season finale against Northwestern (Oct. 29), senior Beth Riley continued to inch her way up Michigan's career saves list, bringing her total to 350 stops during her U-M tenure. The Wolverine goalkeeper ranks sixth in the category in the program's 33-year history and needs just three more saves to reach the fifth position.
The Wolverines have advanced to the Big Ten Tournament championship game in seven of the last eight seasons and begins their quest for a third consecutive title in the second quarterfinal game on Friday, Nov. 3 when they clash with No. 5 Iowa at 12:30 p.m. The Wolverines trail 13- 32 in the all-time series against Iowa but have been dominant of late, winning 12 of the last 15 contests between the storied programs. Michigan is a perfect 3-0 against Iowa in Big Ten Tournament action -- the first two matches were closely-fought, one-goal championship games (1999, 2004) while in last season's meeting, U-M squeezed past the Hawkeyes 3-2 in the opening round.
No. 5 Iowa Hawkeyes
As a freshman, Caitlin McCurdy provided a huge boost for the Hawkeyes and continues to do so for the Hawkeyes' in their 2006 campaign. The Mountain Top, Pa., native leads the team with nine goals and 20 points. Classmate, Lauren Pfeiffer is next closest with five goals. The two girls don't seem to by shy around the scoring circle combining for 121 total shots and setting up most of their shots is junior back Kadi Sickel who has contributed a team high 10 assists.
In the backfield the Hawkeyes return the 2005 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-Big Ten selection in Heather Schnepf. As a senior, Schnepf has tied a career high in goals with four and has added a career high six assists. This past month she was selected by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association to participate in the Division I Senior All-Star game joining ten other Big Ten field hockey players.
No. 6 Northwestern
Northwestern heads into Ann Arbor, Mich., with a 1-5 conference mark, drawing the sixth seed in the Big Ten Tournament. The Wildcats scratched out a 3-2 overtime win over Michigan State on Sept. 30 in Evanston, Ill., in the second week of the conference season but could not build any more momentum. Don't question Northwestern's resiliency though, the Wildcats are 3-1 in extra minutes overcoming opponents Missouri State and Stanford and nearly posting an upset over No. 2 Indiana, however the Hoosiers came out on top to claim a 5-4 double-overtime victory over Northwestern.
Alex Quinn leads the team with six scores (two in conference) and four assists for a team-high 16 points. Despite the offensive drought the Wildcats' defense has done its part to keep the team within striking distance. Sophomore keeper, Emily Kyle has been busy this year recording slightly over seven saves a game (7.06) and her 113 saves leads the conference.
No. 7 Michigan State
Record: 1-5 Big Ten Conference, 7-11 Overall
Head Coach: Rolf van de Kerkhof
Opening Game: Friday, vs. No. 2 Indiana, 10 a.m. ET
Michigan State rounds out the seven team field with a seventh-seed in the Big Ten tournament. After dropping their first four conference games, the Spartans rallied to defeat Indiana for their first win of the Big Ten season. Michigan State then nearly posted an upset over No. 5 Ohio State, however the Buckeyes came out on top to claim a 4-3 double-overtime victory over MSU in the final weekend of conference play.
The Spartans 1-5 record in conference and 7-11 overall record is not for a lack of effort on either side of the ball. Freshman Floor Rijpma took 64 shots on the season, the most in the conference; however, it was senior Ashley Pernicano that put the ball in the back of the net the most with a team-high 10 goals tying her for fourth against other Big Ten opponents.
MSU's defense totaled 110 saves on the season ranking them second behind Northwestern in the conference. Keeper Stephanie Yuhasz stopped 95 shots on goal to place her third in the Big Ten standings.
In the Spartans only conference win of the season and in the final home game of her career year Ashley Pernicano scored the only goal of the game to cap off her senior year with a 1-0 upset of No. 2 Indiana. Behind a great defensive effort senior goalkeeper Stephanie Yuhasz tallied her fourth shutout this season and second consecutive, posting four saves in the win.
The two squad's face-off again at 10 a.m. on Friday. The winner of the match will go on to face the victor in the third versus sixth-seed match between Penn State and Northwestern.