Hoosiers face crucial weekend slate in Michigan - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Hoosiers face crucial weekend slate in Michigan

(Source: Indiana University Website) (Source: Indiana University Website)
BLOOMINGTON, IN (WFIE) -

After triumphing in last weekend's upset over No. 6 Northwestern, which gave the Hoosiers their second Big Ten win of the season, Indiana controls their destiny on the road to the Big Ten Championships next month. The progress has been steady over the season's first seven weeks, and Indiana hopes to climb even higher as they enter their final five games of the regular season.
 
"The team's confidence is really high right now because they can really see the difference between our play in August and now," said Indiana head coach Amanda Janney. "They know we're improving on so many aspects of our game every time we step on the field. It's exciting to think of where we'll be in October."
 
The Hoosiers are confident, but they're aware that this upcoming weekend presents a new pair of challenges at No. 12 Michigan and Michigan State. Last season, Indiana played both teams on the road, and came short in two losses decided by one goal.
 
"These two games last year were definitely games we should've won, they were really close," said Indiana's leading scorer,Kate Barber. "If we can capitalize on our opportunities, play strong defense, and connect our passes throughout the field, that will push us over the top."

Indiana's game at 12th-ranked Michigan, their eighth contest against a top-20 opponent this season, presents a unique challenge for the Hoosier defense. As a unit, they Hoosiers have succeeded at holding their opponents' top scorers in check. The Wolverines, however, lack a definitive leading scorer: their quartet of Courtney Enge, Esther de Leijer, Carly Bennett, and Emma Way carry double-digit point totals, but none have notched more than six goals.
 
"It's hard to scout them because they've had so many people scoring," Janney said. "With our previous games, I've been proud of our ability to scout and shut down the opponents' best players, that's been the strength of our defense. They have a couple strong points that we'll try to shut down, but I think it's just one of those games that you don't have to worry about individual opponents; you just have to play your best."
 
Indiana's growing confidence is rooted in their backline, which has played all-out in the last few weeks. Led by Noëlle Rother, who was recently named the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Week and an NFHCA National Honorable Mention, the backfield has been uncompromising despite facing a high volume of shots. In their last four games, Indiana has faced 40 opposing attack penalty corners, but they've only yielded two goals.
 
"On attack, we want to convert one-of-three penalty corner opportunities, so on defense we want to allow less than that," Janney said. "With Morgan Dye as a fast flyer, and Noëlle in the goal, that unit is a huge strength for us. That's something that will carry you late into the postseason, having strong units on both corners. Even though we don't want to give up corners, we have the confidence that we can stop it."
 
Another catalyst for the Hoosiers this season has been Indiana's senior class: Barber, Dye, Malia Fujisawa, and Mollie Getzfread. The foursome has combined for 51 points in 14 games, along with a team leading four defensive saves by Fujisawa. With five games remaining in their final regular season with Indiana, the seniors are making plays all over the field and leading the Hoosiers on their arduous race to the finish.
 
"We can't win unless our senior class steps up," said Janney. "I definitely have asked them to step up in an encouraging way. Teams are as good as your seniors, especially with the leadership and experience they bring. They have to lead us from the front. We have some great leaders in those four, and they're all playing fantastic. We're excited to help them finish on a high note."
 
Although Indiana's seniors are firing on all cylinders, they can't help but glance at their proverbial countdown clock every now and then. Getzfread, for one, has played in 68 games over five years with the Hoosiers, and she can't believe that her final regular season is down to five games.
 
"It's quickly approaching, and it's kind of scary," said Getzfread. "A few games ago, we began counting down the games we have remaining in this season. It's exciting to know that we've made it four or five years, but we're not finished yet. We want to go all the way, make it to the Big Ten Tournament, and win the title."

Courtesy: Indiana University Athletics

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