Field hockey sitting at No. 20 in national poll, host Virginia on Friday
Sophomore forward Heather Howie sprints to the ball on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 2, 2012 at Ralph Young Field. The Spartans won both games this weekend at Ralph Young Field. Natalie Kolb/The State News
If more proof was required for the case that MSU field hockey has turned a corner this year, it’s here.
MSU field hockey’s three-game winning streak has caught the attention of the rest of the nation. After a weekend featuring a signature win over then-No. 11 Stanford and a shutout win over Miami (Ohio), the Spartans find themselves ranked 20th in the nation by the Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association, or NFHCA, Division I National Coaches Poll.
It’s the first time MSU has been ranked since before the 2011 season.
But now it’s time for the Spartans to defend their brand new ranking, and their first opponent is Virginia. And the Cavaliers have a bit of a history with the Spartans.
Virginia was responsible for MSU being sent home from both the 2009 and 2010 NCAA Tournaments. The Cavaliers bounced the Spartans in 2009 with a second-round, 3-2 overtime victory. Then, in 2010, the teams met in the first round and saw an almost identical game play out, with Virginia once again triumphing over MSU 3-2 in overtime.
The Spartans got some measure of revenge when they shut out Virginia last year. The Cavaliers came in as the seventh-ranked team in the nation, per the NFHCA poll and MSU took them down, 3-0.
One other thing to note, Virginia’s head coach, Michele Madison, once was the field hockey coach at MSU.
The Spartans are focused mostly on themselves going into the weekend. The teams’ history aside, Virginia is still a team that features two members of the 2012 Olympic team, Paige Selenski and Michelle Vittese. That means MSU has to really focus on executing their game plan and avoiding the slow starts that plagued them against Stanford and Miami (Ohio).
“We should be stepping up defensively,” senior forward Jessica Lindner said when asked about their strategy to counter the Cavaliers’ Olympians.
One of MSU’s strengths thus far into the year has been getting the ball out in transition and attacking the goal, but they’ve struggled to finish effectively. Against a team like Virginia, that’s going to be critical, according to Lindner.
“We need to be finishing (offensively) as forwards,” she said.
Head coach Helen Knull has been effusive in her praise of junior goalkeeper Molly Cassidy, who she said had been “outstanding” this year, and the Spartans will need that to continue. They also need to stick to what they do best, Knull said.
“We have to play our game plan well,” she said.
Junior midfielder Katherine Jamieson doesn’t think that will be an issue.
“We’re really prepared,” she said.