Field Hockey: No. 10 Northwestern prepares for Big Ten clash with No. 8 Iowa

Junior+Midfielder+Christen+Conley+battles+for+the+ball+against+No.+2+Maryland.+The+Wildcats+have+a+big+game+this+weekend+against+Iowa.
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Field Hockey: No. 10 Northwestern prepares for Big Ten clash with No. 8 Iowa

Junior Midfielder Christen Conley battles for the ball against No. 2 Maryland. The Wildcats have a big game this weekend against Iowa.

Junior Midfielder Christen Conley battles for the ball against No. 2 Maryland. The Wildcats have a big game this weekend against Iowa.

Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Junior Midfielder Christen Conley battles for the ball against No. 2 Maryland. The Wildcats have a big game this weekend against Iowa.

Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Junior Midfielder Christen Conley battles for the ball against No. 2 Maryland. The Wildcats have a big game this weekend against Iowa.

Gabriela Carroll, Reporter

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For some teams, it would be the biggest game of the season.

But for No. 10 Northwestern, it’s just another weekend.

No. 8 Iowa is the 11th ranked opponent in the 17 games the Wildcats has played this season. NU’s current record against ranked opposition is 7-3, and the Cats hope they can add a eighth victory Saturday in Iowa City, Iowa.

NU (12-5, 4-2 Big Ten) has been on a roll lately, dominating Rutgers and Kent State in its last two contests. The Hawkeyes (11-4, 5-1) are coming off an overtime loss to Louisville, but are likely to play with an edge on their senior day.

The game will likely decide the Cats’ seeding in the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa currently sits in third place, with NU is right behind in fourth.

“We want to finish as high as we can in the Big Ten,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “We’re just going to take this game as it comes, and we hope to go 1-0 this weekend.”

The stakes aren’t as high as they would have been in previous seasons, owing to the tournament’s new structure, which will see all teams play at a single site. Although earning the right to face a lower-seeded opponent is the goal, without the benefit of home-field advantage, the difference between seeds is minimal.

The Cats have been scoring at a high rate, with an average of 3.12 goals per game. Senior defender Kirsten Mansfield said these opportunities rely on the forwards playing a good defensive game. When NU forces turnovers in the attacking 25, it tends to result in man-up scoring opportunities.

Last Sunday, NU held Kent State to one shot through the combined efforts of both the defensive line and the forwards. The Cats will need to sustain that level of defense in order to beat an Iowa team that averages 3.4 goals per game. To do this, NU will have to limit Iowa’s possessions inside the circle, something they struggled with against Maryland, and a strong offensive press is key to doing that.

“The forward unit is super good at putting high pressure, being smart on the ball, and then counterattacking really well,” senior midfielder Lily Katzman said. “We know Iowa likes to move the ball, and they have good, quick ball speed. Making sure we’re being smart forwards, and knowing when we pressure and how to break down the play.”

Email: gabrielacarroll2023@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @gablcarroll

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