Breakdown: After a dismal 2017 season that saw zero conference wins for the Hoosiers, there doesn’t seem to be much optimism this season for a team that has to replace starting goalie Katie Johnson and leading scorer Maddie Latino. However, Coach Amanda Janney Misselhorn’s squad has one more year of experience under their belts and returns star junior Cierra Girouard, who scored 15 points during the 2017 season. The Hoosiers have a lot of spots to improve in, including the midfield and defense, where they were torched a season ago. However, sophomore Kelsey Giese, 10 points in 2017, and other contributors are back to bring IU into a new season.
Important nonconference matchups: Aug. 24 vs. Louisville, Sept. 7 vs. Stanford
Key Returning Players: Cierra Girouard (15 points), Bente Buwalda, Kelsey Giese (10 points)
Big Ten Conference prediction: Seventh. An improvement from a year ago is in sight, but IU still has a ways to go. Girouard will be crucial for IU’s offense and there’s plenty of talent waiting in the wings, but the Big Ten Conference is a gauntlet and IU isn’t quite at contender level yet.
Breakdown: Just one year removed from a runner-up finish in the NCAA Field Hockey Tournament, Maryland figures to be a serious contender once again in 2018. Gone is 37-point scorer Lein Holsboer, but the Terrapins return sophomore defender Bodil Keus and junior midfielder Madison Maguire. Maryland returns five of its top six scorers from last year’s team, which now has a wealth of postseason experience to use as it prepares for a repeat run. Maryland reeled off six straight regular season conference wins last season after dropping its first two of the year. Another tough schedule awaits a Terrapin team that finished seventh in RPI last season, including a national title rematch at Connecticut, but the Terrapins’ high powered offense should put them in a position to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
Important nonconference matchups: Sept. 2 vs. Duke, Sept. 30 at Connecticut, Oct. 21 at Virginia
Key Returning Players: Bodil Keus (27 points), Madison Maguire (24 points), Linnea Gonzales (22 points)
Big Ten Conference prediction: Second. With five of its top six scorers back from a NCAA runner-up team, Maryland should be in position for a deep run.
Breakdown: After a Big Ten Conference Regular season title and a run to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament, Michigan brings back its two leading scorers, (Meg Dowthwaite, 46 points and Emma Way, 36 points) along with a veteran-laden team. Five of the top seven scoring players return for a team that had unprecedented success in conference play. The Wolverines will have to deal with an extremely rigorous schedule which includes Connecticut and North Carolina, as well as expectations to make a return trip to the Final Four. If all goes well on the offensive side for Michigan, a deep run in the tournament may not be out of the picture. The first five games of the season will be a test for the level of success Michigan will have this year.
Important nonconference matchups: Aug. 25 at North Carolina, Aug. 26 at Wake Forest, Sept. 2 at Connecticut
Key Returning Players: Meg Dowthwaite (46 points), Emma Way (36 points)
Big Ten Conference prediction: First. After Michigan’s run to the Final Four a year ago, the Wolverines just have too much talent returning to not make a deep run. Michigan may run into a tough Big Ten opponent here or there, but the Wolverines should not be kept from winning the regular season title.
Breakdown: Northwestern was rolling a year ago before running into Michigan's defensive wall, which shut down any hopes of a deep run for the Wildcats. Northwestern’s final three losses came to Michigan in the regular season, Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament in games where the Wildcats failed to score any goals. The Wildcats return once again with NCAA hopes with a frontline that includes Puck Pentenga (39 points) and Eva van Agt (15 points). Northwestern loses a lot of offensive production, but, with Pentenga returning as the leading scorer along with goalie Annie Kalfas, the Wildcats have plenty of star power on the front lines. If the Wildcats can get spectacular performances from their two stars, they should be in good position. If not, the Wildcats could be looking at a tough slate in the Big Ten.
Important nonconference matchups: Aug. 24 vs. Connecticut, Aug. 31 at Duke
Key Returning Players: Puck Pentenga (39 points), Eva van Agt (15 points), Annie Kalfas (1.76 GAA)
Big Ten Conference prediction: Fifth. Northwestern could possibly and probably be better than this, but the Wildcats lose a lot of offensive production. If Pentenga can give them the same level of production as last year or even more, the Wildcats may have a star in the making. Pentenga has the chance to help Northwestern go far if things fall into place.
Breakdown: Iowa failed to find any sort of consistency last year in a season that culminated in a 5-1 beatdown at the hands of Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament. Iowa’s young core looked out of sorts at times against the tough conference schedule, going just 2-5 in conference with one of those wins over the conference’s bottom-feeder in IU. One lone bright spot on the Hawkeye roster last season was junior Katie Birch, a midfielder who finished the season with 14 goals and 6 assists. Along with her, Iowa returns sophomore Maddy Murphy who chipped in 11 goals as a freshman for the Hawkeyes. Besides those two returning stars, no one scored more than four goals for Iowa last season. Iowa will certainly rely on those two for offensive production, but will need others to step up around them as Birch and Murphy are no longer secrets in the Big Ten Conference. Iowa will attempt to guide its way through the Big Ten with a young nucleus and any attempt at an NCAA bid will rest on the shoulders of Birch and Murphy.
Important nonconference matchups: Aug. 25 at Wake Forest, Aug. 26 at North Carolina
Key Returning Players: Katie Birch (36 points), Maddy Murphy (25 points)
Big Ten Conference prediction: Sixth. Katie Birch and Maddy Murphy make the Hawkeyes a tough team to play this season. Both are skilled offensively and add needed experience to the Iowa offense. Outside of that is bleak for Iowa but there’s enough there to put a little scare in the Big Ten.
Breakdown: Ohio State was three overtime losses away from potentially being a tournament team a year ago. The Buckeyes’ inability to put the ball in the net cost them a chance at being an elite team. While they were a balanced scoring team, their overall team total of 32 goals was among the worst in the nation. Casey Cole is the leading returning scorer with only two goals. The Buckeyes lost their four most productive scorers from a team that could only muster 32 goals last year. If Ohio State can’t find anyone to step up offensively, it could be a long year in Columbus. Ellen Westfall takes over in goal after not seeing a minute of action a year ago. The Buckeyes’ roster is young but full of plenty of players who could step up and impress this season.
Important nonconference matchups: Aug. 26 at Louisville, Sept. 3 at Boston.
Key Returning Players: Casey Cole (6 points)
Big Ten Conference prediction: Eighth. Ohio State had very little production a year ago and much should be the same this season. The one benefit is that a younger team is now in place. Ohio State will have to surprise some folks to make some noise in the Big Ten.
Breakdown: Michigan State found themselves in the same boat as Ohio State a season ago. The Spartans and their slower-paced attack were outscored 59-34 by opponents last season enroute to an 8-11 overall finish. Only three players for Michigan State scored more than five goals last year and, for more bad news, none of them return. Junior Makenzie Brown and sophomore Meredith Ross will now lead a very inexperienced Spartan team into a new era and a stronger Big Ten conference. MSU will hope that an important off season pays off this fall in hopes for a rebound year. The Spartans head out to Connecticut to open the season against the Huskies, Quinnipiac and Yale in what will be a test of what MSU is made of this year.
Important nonconference matchups: Aug. 31 at Connecticut, Oct. 7 at Louisville
Key Returning Players: Makenzie Brown, Meredith Ross
Big Ten Conference prediction: Ninth. The offensive production wasn’t there for Michigan State last year and their top three scorers are gone. Couple the Big Ten schedule with a tough non conference and the Spartans is looking at a gauntlet of a season starting real early.
Breakdown: Although Rutgers only finished with nine wins and nine losses a season ago, there may be reason for extreme optimism in Piscataway, New Jersey, this season. The Scarlet Knights return their top 10 scorers from a season ago. A very young team last year turns into an experienced, well-oiled team this season that has the chance to compete for a conference title. Sophomore Daphne Groothuis (22 points last season) and senior Linde Van Schaik (19 points) head the monster attack for Rutgers while sophomore Gianna Glatz returns to the net where she started all 18 games for the Scarlet Knights last season. All the pieces are lining up for Rutgers after a rocky season a year ago but how the talent pans out remains the question in New Jersey.
Important nonconference matchups: Sept. 9 vs. Princeton, Sept. 30 at Delaware
Key Returning Players: Daphne Groothuis (22 points), Linde Van Schaik (19 points)
Big Ten Conference prediction: Fourth. This may seem like a reach for a team that went 9-9 last year, but the pieces are there for the Scarlet Knights. With their top ten returning scorers back, Rutgers has the chance of picking up a tournament bid for the first time since 1986.
Breakdown: Penn State had major success a season ago behind the stick of 57-point scorer Moira Putsch. Although Putsch is gone from Penn State, the Nittany Lions return many key pieces from an NCAA Tournament team. Aurelia Meijer (19 points) and Madison Morano (16 points) are back for Penn State, a team that scored twice as many goals as conference foe Michigan State last season. Starting goalie Jenny Rizzo is also back as Penn State attempts to make a return trip deep in the tournament. Their star player is gone, but Penn State has plenty of talent returning for a team that has lots of experience ready to go.
Important nonconference matchups: Sept. 9 vs. Duke, Sept. 30 vs. James Madison
Key Returning Players: Aurelia Meijer (19 points), Madison Morano (16 points)
Big Ten Conference prediction: Third. While their star in Putsch isn’t in Happy Valley anymore, Penn State is a natural power and returns two quality offensive components and a starting goalie. The Nittany Lions should be in line for another tournament bid.