After splitting its first two games of the season with Louisville and Ball State, IU Field Hockey gets set to fly east to Pennsylvania this weekend for matchups with Villanova and Drexel.
While it’s the first big trip of the season, many members will be making a return to the East Coast — including nine to their home state of Pennsylvania.
“I can’t wait,” senior Nora Aucker said. “I have a lot family and friends that are showing out, so it'll be fun to be back in the area. Just the different environment and the different level of play will be really great to see. It will be great for our team to experience and thrive in.”
The Hoosiers picked up their first win of the season last Sunday, shutting out Ball State in a strong defensive effort.
After a road win, the confidence of the IU bunch is high. Many Hoosiers saw action against the Cardinals, an experience that could be treated as a stepping stool for the rest of the season.
“I think it’s a huge momentum opportunity for us this weekend to have two more opportunities especially playing back in our homeside of the country,” junior Sam Scire said. “We’re going to use that as good momentum going on.”
After controlling a majority of the game Sunday, IU Coach Amanda Janney Misselhorn was impressed by her team’s ability to play on its own terms.
While there are things to sure up, Janney Misselhorn feels the team’s fast play will be crucial in matchups with two physical Philadelphia teams.
“We’re working on some defensive skills, and I think just keeping the intensity in the backfield up is important for us,” Janney Misselhorn said. “We really want to play a fast paced game, and we have the strength and depth to do it, we just need to execute.”
While this trip is a return home for many players, Janney Misselhorn will also be heading back to a place very familiar.
Before taking the job at IU, Janney Misselhorn coached Temple University, a team accustomed to the Philadelphia style of play the Hoosiers will see this weekend.
“In Philadelphia, you have a lot of pride of being from Philadelphia and having that Philly Toughness,” Janney Misselhorn said. “We expect a very physical game. For us coming from the Big Ten, we talk about playing big, tough defense and we’re hoping we have that advantage heading into those games this weekend.”
Heading into Pennsylvania, strong defensive efforts have been a big reason for the success in the first two matches of the season.
For IU to keep up its winning ways, a veteran backline will have to step up against Villanova and Drexel, a backline that’s confident after two strong matchups.
“Especially being a part of the backline it’s good,” Aucker said about seeing the team's success. “We’re building our confidence and knowing that even if we’re not getting the goal outcomes we want, that later in the season we’ll be able to play really strong defense and keep them from scoring goals.”
The Hoosiers are two games into the season and their two leading returning scorers from a year ago haven’t scored yet.
For some, that would stand out as a concerning fact. For Janney Misselhorn, however, the Hoosiers’ ability for anyone to put the ball into the net speaks to the depth of the team.
“To replace Maddie Latino is hard to do and Kate Barber from the year before,” Janney Misselhorn said. “So to see underclassmen step up and play very mature roles as our scorers is important. The variety is great for us, and it’s going to make it tough to scout because the other teams don’t know which of our front players are going to score.”
The Hoosiers flew out to State College, Pennsylvania, on Thursday, officially starting their long weekend trip. While it will be exciting for some players to see their families, Aucker knows that long road trips take focus to achieve the goal in mind.
“Obviously there’s a big fun aspect this weekend for a lot of us going home," Aucker said. "It’s good to have the beginning of the season to see some family and friends, but also to remind everyone that it’s a business trip, and we’re here to get two W’s.”
The Hoosiers will play Villanova on Friday at 6 p.m. and will round out the trip with Drexel on Sunday at noon.
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