WHO: Iowa Hawkeyes @ Maryland Terrapins
WHAT: Field hockey B1G Conference game
WHERE: Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, College Park, MD
WHEN: Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm
WATCH: In person
It's championship Saturday for the Maryland Field hockey squad. If the Terrapins can defeat the Iowa Hawkeyes they will become the first Maryland team to claim a Big Ten Championship. Unlike Maryland's former conference, the B1G awards the conference title in most sports to the regular season champion and uses their Tournament only to determine the conference's automatic NCAA Qualifier. Because Penn State won their game Friday 2-1 over Northwestern, the Terrapins can already claim a share of the title. With a win, they will claim the outright championship.
Hawkeyes on the turf
As a program, Iowa has a long tradition of success in field hockey. They won the most recent of their 15 Big Ten Championships in 2007 and have appeared in 22 NCAA Tournaments reaching 9 Final Fours. Of those 9 Final Four appearances they advanced to the championship game four times winning once and losing three times to Old Dominion.
With all that history, 2013 was a rather pedestrian year for the Hawkeyes. They finished 13-8 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten. Although they reached the final of the conference tournament, they lost to Michigan State and did not gain an NCAA Tournament bid.
Iowa has taken a small step forward in 2014. Entering the final regular season game they are 11-5 and 4-3 in B1G play. The Hawkeyes are tied for 14th in the most recent coaches poll and are 17th in RPI. Three of their five losses have come on the road.
Iowa is a dynamic offensive team. Their 3.31 goals per game average (overall games) makes them the second best scoring team in the B1G behind Maryland. However, while the Terrapins' scoring average has increased in conference only games, the Hawkeyes' has gone down by nearly a goal per game. Still, the Hawkeyes have won back to back games with their most recent effort a convincing 4-0 win over Penn State in Iowa City in which they scored what Maryland coach Missy Meharg deemed "some world class goals."
Players to watch
Natalie Cafone #9, junior, forward. Cafone is Iowa's leading scorer with 18 goals and 42 points. In the Hawkeyes' last game, she scored her 48th career goal to move into tenth place all-time at Iowa. Averaging 2.48 points per game in 2013, she led the nation in scoring and at 2.63 points per game is currently fifth in the country.
Stephanie Norlander, #8, sophomore, forward / midfielder. After being named the 2013 Freshman of the Year in the Big Ten, Norlander has backed that up with a solid sophomore campaign. She is second in goals and points with 15 and 34 respectively.
Given Iowa's long history of NCAA appearances, it's not surprising to see that the Terrapins and the Hawkeyes have met several times over the years. Saturday will be the 14th meeting between the two schools and six of the previous thirteen have come in the NCAA Tournament. Maryland holds a 9-3-1 edge in the all time series and Iowa has not one in either of their prior trips to College Park. The Terps' most recent win came when they hosted the Hawkeyes in a 2011 NCAA Tournament regional game.
The Terps have won ten straight games since their early season loss at Northwestern and have become a powerful offensive machine. In those ten games, they've outscored their opponents 56-10. For comparison, only 7 of the 77 NCAA Division I field hockey teams have scored more goals for their season than Maryland has scored in this ten game stretch.
Still, Iowa is a quality opponent and though their win over Penn State assures them no worse than a .500 finish in the B1G, an upset of the Terps would solidify their NCAA credentials and assure them a spot in the top half of the conference standings. For Maryland, the game represents the opportunity to become the first Terrapins' squad in any sport to claim a championship in the Big Ten.