How little difference a week makes. Just seven days after their last meeting in Ann Arbor, the No. 10 Michigan field hockey team and No. 11 Iowa will meet this Friday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Last Friday, in the teams’ final regular season conference match, Michigan (12-7 overall, 3-3 Big Ten) and Iowa (10-7, 3-3) played into sudden death overtime. The Wolverines played solid team defense all game and prevailed 2-1 on sophomore forward Lucia Belassi’s goal.

But the Michigan players know that the postseason is a new season. They also know that this weekend’s match will be in Iowa City, where the hometown Hawkeyes will be playing in front of their fans. But Michigan doesn’t think the venue will determine the result of the match. The Wolverines hope they will have the same intensity as last week and gain the same result.

“We beat them in a close game, so hopefully we’ll come out and execute against them again,” junior goalkeeper Beth Riley said.

The Wolverines know that Iowa will benefit from being on its home field, but they are planning on stepping up their intensity in order to even the playing field.

“Playing in Iowa just gives us more incentive to play better,” Michigan coach Nancy Cox said. “We are going to be ready for any team that we play in this tournament. Our players have practiced with great tempo, so we’ll be ready.”

With three-straight losses to begin the year, Cox’s first season at the helm has been an up-and-down affair. But, most importantly, the team is entering the postseason on a positive note after winning six of its last seven matches.

Last year, the 2004 Michigan team won the Big Ten Tournament. But this year’s squad has taken a different path to the postseason than its predecessor.

“It’s going to be a whole different experience than last year,” Belassi said. “Going into the Big Ten Tournament, last year’s team was coming off of a great conference season, while this year we’ve been getting better as the season moves along. Right now, the whole team is very comfortable and very confident in how we’re playing.”

That especially holds true for how the team feels about playing against Iowa.

“We’ve beaten them once, so we can totally beat them twice,” Belassi said.




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