Oct. 25, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State and No. 13 Northwestern square off on Saturday, October 26th at 1 p.m. at Ralph Young Field. The two teams enter Saturday's matchup with identical 3-1 records in the Big Ten, while MSU is 8-8 and Northwestern is 12-4 overall. Both teams are looking to stay alive in the race for the Big Ten title, sitting just one game behind league-leading Penn State - which plays at No. 19 Iowa this weekend.
Week in Review
MSU suffered a heart-breaking loss to No. 5 Penn State last Saturday in State college. The two top teams in the Big Ten standings were tied after two overtimes and 100 minutes of play when the game went to penalty strokes, which PSU won 2-1. MSU scored three unanswered goals to take a 3-1 lead, but the Nittany Lions scored two goals within two minutes to tie the game and eventually send it to extra time. Abby Barker had a chance on a wide open net in the first overtime that was stopped on a full-out dive by a Nittany Lion defender to preserve the tie. Jenni Smith recorded an assist on all three Spartan goals. The Spartans then played a midweek game against Central Michigan on Tuesday, defeating the Chippewas 1-0. Barker scored the lone MSU goal on an assist from Heather Howie.
The Wildcats head to East Lansing tied with Michigan State for second in the Big Ten standings at 3-1. At 12-4, all of Northwestern's losses on the season have come on the road.
One of the top defenses in the Big Ten, Northwestern has allowed a league-low 19 goals this season, allowing an average of 1.16 per game. Goalkeeper Maddy Carpenter is the center of the Cats defense, owning a Big Ten-leading 1.16 GAA. Carpenter has recorded five shutouts on the season, while stopping .689 percent of shots sent her way.
Northwestern leads the all-time series 34-24, and defeated MSU 2-1 when the teams met last season.
Seniors Molly Cassidy, Kristen Henn, Katherine Jamieson, Adelle Lever and Mallory McDonagh will be recognized before the game on Saturday as part of senior day. The field hockey program, athletic department, and University thank them for their contributions to the program over the last four years.
After starting the season 3-6, MSU has won five of its last seven games and is 3-1 and tied for second in the Big Ten.
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 nine goals respectively, while captain Kristin Henn and has added four.
Michigan State has scored first in all eight of their wins this year, recording team shutouts in four of those victories.
Smith has had a recent point surge, tallying eight points in the Spartans' last four games. Smith scored her first two goals of the season against Michigan and had an assist against Ball State last weekend before adding three more assists against No. 5 Penn State.
The Michigan State frontline has developed a one-two combo of Abby Barker and Allie Ahern. The two account for just under half (20/41) of the teams goals and combine for seven game winning goals . Since Barker's return to the lineup against Northeastern (9/20), at least one of the two has scored in every game except for when the Spartans got shutout at Miami (Oh).
Barker scored the Spartans' lone goal in a 1-0 win over Central Michigan on Tuesday, giving her four straight games with a goal and eight goals in the last six games. Barker recorded a hat trick against Indiana (10/4) and was the second Spartan to do so this year, as Ahern accomplished the feat against Pacific (9/1). Barker's 0.81 goals per game ranks third best in the Big Ten.
Ahern has been a consistent force for the Michigan State offense all season, leading the team in both goals (10) and points (22), ranking fifth in the Big Ten in goals and sixth in points.
On the defensive side, goalkeeper Molly Cassidy has made 70 saves this season, the second-most in the Big Ten. Cassidy turned away a season high 12 shots on Saturday against Penn State. She recorded her first shutout of the season against Northeastern (9/20) and Michigan State goalies have made a combined 76 saves this year, which ranks second in the Big Ten behind Indiana.Alli Helwig has made all three defensive saves for MSU this season.
Penn State currently sits atop the Big Ten standings at 4-0. MSU and Northwestern each sit one game behind the Nittany Lions at 3-1. Penn State still has two road games remaining at Iowa and Michigan. Northwestern has games at MSU and home against Ohio State. Michigan State needs to take care of business against both Northwestern and Iowa, and would need help from either Iowa or Michigan in order to get a share of the Big Ten title.
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, October 14th. Smith had her first two goals of the season against Michigan, helping the Spartans defeat the No.16 Wolverines in double overtime and also recorded an assist and led a back line that recorded a shutout over Ball State.
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. Henn is third on the team in goals with four and tied for fourth on the team with 10 points. 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 16 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 5-1 at its home venue, with its only loss coming to No. 4 Syracuse. The Spartans have won five-straight at home since then, outscoring opponents 19-6 in those games.
Playing the Best
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 (3rd), Old Dominion(10th) and Stanford (11th).
Three Big Ten teams currently sit in the national poll. MSU defeated then ranked No. 16 Michigan and lost to No. 6 Penn State. Still on the slate for the Spartans is 13th ranked Northwestern and No. 19 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.
Michigan State closes out the regular season on the road against No. 19 Iowa on Saturday, Nov. 2.