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Nov. 16, 2004
Michigan State advanced to the NCAA Field Hockey Championship semifinals for only the second time in school history after posting a pair of victories, including a 3-2 triumph over Michigan in the second round last weekend. Defending NCAA champion Wake Forest will serve as the host of the final two rounds on Friday and Sunday, November 19 and 21, at Kentner Stadium.
For the fourth straight year, a Big Ten team has earned a spot in the round of four with Michigan advancing to the semifinals in 2001 and 2003, while Penn State and the Spartans also claimed spots in 2002. The League record for consecutive years in the round of four was set from 1983 to 1990 when either Iowa or Northwestern represented the Big Ten in the semfinals for eight straight seasons.
Three Big Ten programs were awarded bids to the 16-team field of the 2004 Championship, as the Spartans advanced out of hostile territory with two wins in Ann Arbor, Mich. Big Ten Tournament champion and No. 4 seed Michigan earned the right to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Championship on its home field and welcomed in-state rival Michigan State (which shared the Big Ten Championship with UM and Iowa), Pacific and Boston College to Ocker Field. MSU came into this year's tournament looking to avenge two earlier losses to the Wolverines. In last year's NCAA second round, Michigan defeated the Spartans, 2-1, while also nabbing a 1-0 overtime victory in regular season play this season. Michigan State opened with a 4-0 shutout over Boston College before the Wolverines defeated Pacific, 2-1, in overtime to set up the second round grudge match. Verle Goudswaard would lead the Spartans to a 3-2 victory over their in-state foe, while also breaking the all-time school record for single-season goals to advance to the national semifinals. Iowa was the third Conference team to qualify for the NCAA Championship, but fell to American, 2-1, in the first round at College Park, Md.
The Spartans along with Duke are the lone unseeded teams to reach the round of four as they are joined by No. 2 Wake Forest and No. 3 Maryland. The Blue Devils claimed their semifinal berth after upseting No. 1 seed North Carolina in the second round last Sunday.
In earlier non-conference action, Michigan State defeated Duke, 4-1, at the Champions Challenge on Aug. 29, but fell to Wake Forest, 3-2, in overtime on Sept. 19. In Michigan State's last trip to the round of four, the Demon Deacons defeated the Spartans, 3-0, on their way to claim the 2002 national championship.
The Big Ten has accumulated great success in the NCAA Championship, sending at least three teams to the national tournament in five of the last six seasons (1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004). The Conference has produced two national titles in field hockey, as Iowa claimed the League's first national crown in 1986 and Michigan ended a 14-year drought with the 2001 national championship.