IU field hockey is once again in familiar territory. After finishing eighth in the Big Ten Conference, an improvement from a year ago, IU heads to Maryland for the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
There, IU will meet the Michigan State Spartans, the only team it beat during the regular season conference slate.
Michigan State is 4-14 and 0-8 in conference play this season. The team's last win was Sept. 18 when it beat Central Michigan in a nonconference matchup.
Here are three things to know for Friday’s matchup between IU and Michigan State.
1. Expect a low-scoring match.
It may be evident by where the Hoosiers and Spartans placed in the conference standings, eighth and ninth respectively, but IU and Michigan State aren’t all that different.
Both teams have low scoring offenses and defenses that tend to give up a lot of goals. After the regular season, IU and MSU finished either last or second-to-last in all six team offensive categories including goals, shots and assists. IU has been shut out in seven of 16 games this season while MSU has been shut out in eight of their 18 matches.
When the Hoosiers and Spartans met Oct. 5, Taylor Swope’s late goal gave IU a 1-0 edge for its lone conference win of the season.
2. Sachi Ananias returning to form could be big for IU.
The sophomore goalie from Chile has been the main netminder for the Hoosiers this season after impressive weeks of practice allowed her to take over Shelby Querry’s spot in what IU Coach Amanda Janney Misselhorn continues to call a competitive battle.
Ananias and Querry have split time over the past three matches against potent offenses from Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State, but expect Ananias to be the main goalie come Friday. Against Michigan State earlier this month, Ananias had one of the better games of her young career, shutting out the Spartans while fending off 11 shots.
Any chance IU has of progressing in this tournament may come down to Ananias in net.
3. How the IU defense handles Isa van der Weij could be decisive.
While Michigan State has struggled to score goals this season, Isa van der Weij has been perhaps the lone bright spot for the team. She has 11 of the team's 40 points along with four goals and three assists this season. Van der Weij will start up top for Michigan State and will likely be hounded by the IU defense.
With a veteran defense for IU including graduate student Elle Hempt, senior Nora Aucker and a breakout player in sophomore Hanna Zarrilli, the battle for Michigan State goals should be one to watch for.