Spartan Field Hockey Prepares for Battle of Big Ten Leaders
MSU and Penn State square off in a matchup of conference unbeatens on Saturday.
Oct. 17, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State field hockey hits the road for a first place battle in the Big Ten with No. 5 Penn State. The game will take place at University Park, Pa., on Saturday, Oct. 19th at 12 p.m. Both teams enter Saturday's game as the only teams in the Big Ten with a 3-0 record in conference play.
MSU won its third consecutive Big Ten game on Friday over in-state rival Michigan who was ranked 16th in double overtime. Jenni Smith scored both goals during regulation, giving the Spartans a one goal lead each time. Michigan tied it up with 11 minutes remaining in the game to send it to extra time. Seven minutes into the second overtime, Abby Barker broke free up the left side where she dribbled uncontested into the circle and ripped home the game-winner to give Michigan State a 3-2 victory. On Sunday, MSU earned its first two win weekend by defeating Ball State 8-0. Seven different Spartans recorded goals in the contest.
Scouting Penn State
The Nitany Lions enter Saturday's game tied for first with Michigan State in the Big Ten standings and rank fifth in the nation and third in the RPI. Penn State is 10-3 and has won nine straight games, including wins over four ranked opponents.
Brittany Grzywacz and Taylor Harold head the Penn State offense with nine and eight goals respectively, while both have 20 points on the season. Laura Gebhart leads the Big Ten in assist with 11. Kylie Licata is the likely starter in goal, as she has started all 13 games for the Nitany Lions this season. One of the top goalies in the Big Ten, Licata ranks first in save percentage (.730) and second in GAA (1.31).
Penn State has dominated the all-time series, winning 24 of 34 against the Spartans. When the two teams met last season in East Lansing, Penn State won 6-1. The last time MSU beat Penn State was 2009, capping off three straight years of defeating the
Big Ten Player of the Week
Junior defensive back Jenni Smith earned Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the week, as announced the conference office on Tuesday. Smith had her first two goals of the season on Friday in helping the Spartans defeat No.16 Michigan in double overtime. Smith also recorded an assist on Sunday and led a back line that recorded a shutout over Ball State.
After starting the season 3-6, MSU has won four of its last five games and three straight in the Big Ten. The 3-0 start in the conference is Michigan State's best start since 2009.
Sixteen different players have recorded at least a goal or an assist this year for the Spartans. Allie Ahern and Abby Barker lead the attack with 10 and eight goals respectively, while seniors Kristin Henn and Adelle Lever have three each. Alli Helwig and Katherine Jamieson lead the team in assists with five each, and Jenni Smith and Heather Howie have three each.
Abby Barker recorded three goals this past weekend, including the game-winner in double overtime on Friday. She has now recorded six goals in her last three games, including her first collegiate hat trick against Indiana. She is the second Spartan to record a hat trick this year, as teammate Allie Ahern accomplished the feat against Pacific (9/1). Since Barker's return to the lineup against Northeastern (9/20), MSU is 5-2. Barker ranks third in the Big Ten in goals per game (0.80)
Allie Ahern has been a consistent force for the Michigan State offense all season, leading the team in both goals (10) and points (22), ranking third in the Big ten in each of those categories.
Michigan State is seeing a one-two punch develop on its frontline with Abby Barker and Allie Ahern. The two account for just under half (18/37) of the teams goals. Barker and Ahern have each recorded three game-winning goals, tied for the second best mark in the Big Ten.
On the defensive side, goalkeeper Molly Cassidy has made 56 saves this season, the second most in the Big Ten. Cassidy recorded her first shutout of the season against Northeastern (9/20) and tied her season high in saves on Friday against Michigan when she stopped eight shots. Michigan State goalies have made a combined 62 saves this year, which ranks second in the Big Ten behind Indiana.
Alli Helwig has made all three defensive saves for MSU this season. Michigan State has scored first in all seven of their wins this year, recording team shutouts in three of those victories.
Relying on Experience
Senior midfielder Kristen Henn was announced as the team captain by head coach Helen Knull. This is Henn's third year as captain of the Spartans and she looks to be the anchor of the Spartan lineup this season. She got off to a hot start in the 2013 campaign, netting the game-winning goal in the team's exhibition match against Michigan and picking up a goal and two assists in the first three games. Henn became the fourth Spartan to score multiple goals this season when she punched in a goal in the 2-0 win over Northeastern (9/20).
The Spartans roster features 12 underclassmen (11 freshmen, three sophomores), which means Michigan State will lean heavily on experience and team leadership. There are seven juniors and seniors on the roster that have started in all 14 games to start the season, and the top eight point scorers on the team are all upperclassmen.
Home Field Advantage
Michigan State has enjoyed playing at Ralph Young Field so far this season, going 4-1 at its home venue, with its only loss coming to No. 4 Syracuse. The Spartans have won four-straight at home since then, outscoring opponents 18-6 in those games.
B1G Players to Watch
MSU faces eight teams from last year's NCAA tournament in its 19-game schedule. The non conference portion of the season featured three games against four teams that are currently ranked in the national poll, including reigning national champion Princeton (9th), last year's national semi-finalist Syracuse (4th) and Stanford (13th) and Old Dominion (15th).
Four Big Ten teams currently sit in the national poll. MSU defeated No. 16 Michigan on Friday and take on No. 5 Penn State this upcoming weekend. Still on the slate for the Spartans is 11th ranked Northwestern and No. 18 Iowa.
The Spartan Staff
Helen Knull enters her third season as the head coach of Michigan State field hockey. Knull spent five seasons as an assistant and associate head coach at MSU from 2006-2010 and holds a 91-57 record while on staff for the Spartans. Knull was a four-year starter, two-year captain and a two-time All-American at Kent State, leading the Golden Flashes to the NCAA Tournament four straight years from 1999-2002. In 2002, Knull was named Mid-American Conference Player of the Year. She was inducted into the Kent State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008. Knull went on to be an assistant coach at her alma mater for two years and an associate head coach for a year before coming to Michigan State. As a coach at Kent State, Knull helped lead her alma mater to two MAC Championships in three years.
Molly Maloney enters her sixth season as an assistant coach for the Michigan State field hockey program. This offseason she was promoted to the program's top assistant position. Maloney joined the Spartans beginning in 2008, and Michigan State holds a record of 67-39, including three NCAA tournament appearances, in her tenure.
Jennifer Sciulli joins the Spartan field hockey staff for the 2013 campaign. She served as a student assistant coach at Ohio State in the fall of 2012 before graduating in December with a degree in Speech and Hearing sciences. Sciulli was a four-year varsity starter for the Ohio State field hockey team (2008-2011) where she was a First Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten selection her senior year.
USA Field Hockey
Allie Ahern, Becky Stiles and Abby Barker were among the top field hockey players in the country competing at the USA Field Hockey U-21 National Championships this past June. Stiles and Barker competed at the US Field Hockey National Championships in late May, vying for a spot on the U-21 team. Stiles competed for Team New Jersey, and Barker for the Midwest/California Squad.
Michigan State welcomes Central Michigan to East Lansing on Tuesday, October 22nd at 3 p.m. for its last non-conference game of the season.