IU junior forward Maddie Latino said there are no opponents who could better prepare the Hoosiers for postseason play than the ones that await them this weekend.
IU hits the road to face No. 6 Penn State on Friday and No. 2 Syracuse on Sunday. This will be the first time this season the Hoosiers play two top-10 teams in the same weekend.
IU Coach Amanda Janney said notching quality results during the season’s toughest weekend would give the team a significant confidence boost going into the Big Ten Tournament next week in College Park, Maryland — a sentiment Latino echoed.
“Playing really tough opponents like Penn State and Syracuse is really just going to give us a prequel of what we are going to see at the Big Tens,” Latino said. “The Big Ten tournament is such a different tournament in that — every team that shows up — you do not know how they are going to play.”
The Hoosiers still remember the last time they played the Nittany Lions.
IU came out on top, 1-0, on the road Oct. 18, 2015, but Penn State had the last laugh and took IU down, 3-1, in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament at the IU Field Hockey Complex.
The Hoosiers aim to advance further this year, and Janney said playing the Nittany Lions this weekend will give the team extra motivation to come out on top.
Latino scored IU’s lone goal against Penn State in the tournament last year and said she is looking forward to going up against the Nittany Lion defense.
“We have a really good matchup with their defense,” Latino said. “Our three forwards versus their three defenders is a really good matchup. Just really using our forwards with our two-touch passing and really using the speed we have is really going to help us win the game.”
Janney said Penn State has a lot of speed and makes smart passing plays. However, she said she is confident her defensive unit, headlined by senior Malia Fujisawa, junior Elle Hempt and sophomore Nora Aucker, will contain the Nittany Lions’ offense.
Following the game at University Park, the Hoosiers will go to Syracuse, New York, on Sunday to face the 13-2 defending national champions.
Last season Syracuse topped IU 3-1 in Bloomington in the two squads’ first ever encounter, and once again it was Latino who scored the lone Hoosier goal.
Janney said she has a few things she wants her team to work on over the weekend so it can be good-to-go when tournament play starts Nov. 3.
“We are just trying to clean some stuff up,” Janney said. “We have to score some goals. I think we have not been scoring our average. We just need to find ways to score in both halves to put us in a position to win.”
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