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Wednesday, August 27, 2014 | Last updated: 1:03am


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Syracuse next for MSU field hockey in NCAA Tournament




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Junior midfielder Alli Helwig fights for possession of the ball with Miami (Ohio) midfield/back Jenna Kapsar on Nov. 13, 2013, at Ralph Young Field. The Spartans defeated the Redhawks, 3-0, during the first round of the NCAA tournament. Danyelle Morrow/The State News



The field hockey team proved to Miami (OH) that they were a different team compared to the team that was shut out by Miami earlier in the year.

As MSU travels to Syracuse, they’ll have another opportunity to showcase the dramatic improvement they’ve displayed in the past month. Following a 3-0 win over the Red Hawks to advance from the play-in round, the field hockey team (13-9 overall, 4-2 Big Ten) will take on No. 2 Syracuse on the road for the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

Syracuse shut the Spartans out 4-0 at home earlier in the year, but MSU is currently riding a wave of momentum, winning five-straight games and 10 of the last 13.

The second-half collapses that plagued the regular season are a thing of the past. The Spartans held onto a 1-0 halftime lead against Miami, scoring two in the second half to seal the win.

“Being up 2-0 is definitely comfortable, but being up 3-0, I think that was making a statement,” said junior forward Abby Barker, who had a goal in the win. “I think we definitely got more comfortable being up by three and just played it out from there.”

It’s possible that the team underachieved during the early portion of the regular season. Head coach Helen Knull describes the 3-2 overtime win over Michigan in early October the turning point as far as the team’s mindset in finishing games.

“The belief has been there that we can do it. It took a while for us to get things clicking and moving forward,” Knull said. “Winning over Michigan was a pinnacle in our season, where after that we thought, ‘Yeah, we can move forward.’” Since then, we’ve been playing outstanding hockey, we’ve been consistent, we’ve been putting 70 minutes together.”

Syracuse will be the hardest game of the postseason thus far for MSU. It’s unclear just how far the upward postseason trajectory will carry the Spartans, but the team is optimistic.

“Syracuse, they’re a great team, they’ve been top four all year,” Knull said. “But we’re a different team since we played them too. We’ve gotta come in with the mindset that it doesn’t matter if it’s a 2-seed, 15-seed, whoever. We gotta come in and play our hockey, and the results will come.”


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