Sept. 20, 2012
"We don't make a big deal about it, but everyone knows we only have six games in our sport in conference, that's it," said UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum. "It's kind of like a football feel a little bit... you have to win."
With only seven field hockey teams in the Big Ten, the importance of each of the six league games goes up tenfold. Each conference tilt carries more weight in the regular season title chase and in determining seeding for the Big Ten Tournament.
Griesbaum says the Hawkeyes need to show up in East Lansing ready to compete.
"You can't afford to learn and move on. If you do, you're going to learn the hard way, and you're not going to be in the race for a championship."
UI head coach Tracey Griesbaum
"You can't afford to learn and move on," she said. "If you do, you're going to learn the hard way, and you're not going to be in the race for a championship."
Iowa enters the weekend with a 5-2 overall record with a 2-2 record against nationally-ranked opponents. The Hawkeyes opened the season with a 3-2 overtime win at No. 13 Wake Forest before falling 5-0 to second-ranked North Carolina on Aug. 26.
The team posted a 10-0 victory over Missouri State in its home opener before falling 3-2 at No. 16 Stanford on Sept. 7. Since then the Hawkeyes have won three-straight contests, including a 2-1 win over No. 20 Albany in a Big Ten-esque style game on Sept. 16.
Iowa jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the Great Danes behind a pair of goals from junior Kelsey Mitchell. The Hawkeyes then held off an aggressive Albany attack in the second half, facing seven shots and six penalty corners over the final 35 minutes.
"That style of play really helped us heading into the Big Ten season," said Griesbaum. "What they showed us is more of our conference style."
With six of the seven Big Ten teams in the top-25 of the Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association rankings, Griesbaum says the 2012 Big Ten title is up for grabs.
"There is a ton of parity, and it is anyone's game in the conference," she said. "It's wide open. The way every team has performed and the results everyone has had, the conference race is going to be all over the place."
Griesbaum is stressing the importance of getting the conference season off to a good start, and she knows every other Big Ten coach is doing the same. "Every coach would like to lead off the Big Ten schedule with a win," she said. "It's really important because you don't have time to make it up."
The Hawkeyes and Spartans will square off at Ralph Young Field beginning at 2 p.m. (CT) Friday. Iowa closes out the road trip in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., on Sunday, facing Central Michigan at 11 a.m. (CT).