Here are five matchups we're especially looking forward to when the 2019 NCAA DI field hockey season begins:
Wake Forest at Michigan — Sep. 1
Wake Forest and Michigan both had appearances in the 2018 tournament, and both fell to UNC during their run. That the Deacons even broke into the tournament was impressive in and of itself; picked to finish last in the ACC, Wake Forest gave opponents a run for their money to end the season, earning impressive wins in the ACC and NCAA tournament over ranked opponents Duke, Louisville and Iowa and making the team’s first final four round since 2008.
Michigan played to a 14-7 record last season (7-1 in Big Ten play) and earned the Big Ten regular season title along with its NCAA bid. Despite losing five starters last season, Michigan played at an elite level and saw its team develop. Fifteen players scored at least one goal in 2018 and the freshmen alone combined for 17 goals.
Wake Forest loses a strong offensive talent in Jule Grashoff, but much of the young team that found success last season returns. It will be interesting to see how a recently successful Wake Forest team starts of the season against the more established Michigan.
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Last meeting: Aug. 26, 2018
The last time these teams met Wake Forest grabbed the upset win over then-No. 5 Michigan. Senior Jule Grashoff was a savior for the Deacons, who came from behind in the second frame to score three goals (two of which belonged to Grashoff). The game ended in a flurry of penalty corners for Michigan, but the Wolverines were unable to overcome the Wake Forest defense, and the Deacons earned the squad’s first win of the season.
Princeton at North Carolina — Sep. 6
This game looks like it’ll be one of the best to watch during the ACC-Ivy League Conference Crossover. Obviously North Carolina is the team to beat, coming out of an undefeated 2018 season with a national championship trophy on the shelves. The Tar Heels may have graduated national player of the year and All-American Ashley Hoffman, but they return top scorers Erin Matson and Catherin Hayden. This tough matchup against UNC will be the first game in Princeton’s 2019 slate. The Tigers lose Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year and All-American Elise Wong, but should continue to see support from juniors Clara Roth and Julianna Tornetta.
Last meeting: Aug. 31, 2018
This last matchup was also the first on Princeton’s schedule last season, and an early one for UNC as well. In the end, UNC walked away with the win, tipping in a goal with five minutes left in the game for a 1-0 score. UNC outshot the Tigers 10-7, and Princeton goalie Grace Baylis had six saves in the game.
Harvard at UConn — Sept. 8
Two more 2018 NCAA tournament teams, Harvard and UConn both went undefeated in their respective conferences last season. Harvard enjoyed a breakout season, recording its best record in program history, earning its highest national ranking (No. 6) since the club’s beginning, and winning its fifth Ivy League title and reaching NCAA quarterfinals for the first time ever. The Crimson return six of its top seven scorers, including All-Americans Bente van Vlijmen and Tessel Huibregtsen, as well as much of a defensive unit that ranked second in the NCAA.
The Huskies have a strong returning core as well, with eight starters returning including second-leading points scorer Svea Boker. Also returning are starters Jessica Dembrowski and Lindsay Dickinson, who spent time with U.S. Junior National teams this summer.
Harvard is a program on the rise, and watching that team compete against UConn — who has won three NCAA Championships in the last six seasons and competed in five final fours in that time — should be an interesting matchup.
Last meeting: Sep. 10, 2017
Harvard and UConn have faced each other five times since 2007 and, not too surprisingly, UConn has won each game. Remember, though, Harvard is continuing to grow as a program and hitting its stride. The last matchup in 2017 ended in a 3-1 victory for UConn. Harvard jumped on the board first with an early goal, but UConn took the contest from there, adding three tallies before the end of the first half.
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Duke at Iowa — Sep. 15
Duke finished last season ranked No. 3 in the nation, despite dropping out of the NCAA tournament before the semifinal round. Looking to capitalize off that postseason success, this could be a transition year for the Blue Devils, who graduated a core of their goal-scorers like Rose Tynan and Caroline Andretta. Five starters return, though, including All-ACC selection Margaux Paolino and second-team honorees Sammi Steele and Jillian Wolgemuth.
Iowa enjoyed a season of success last year as well, earning 14 wins (the team’s most since 2011) and reaching the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014. Many of the Hawkeye’s top players return for another title run this season, including offensive leads Maddy Murphy and Katie Birch, as well as goalkeeper Leslie Speight, who recorded the second-best goals against average in the Big Ten and the sixth best in the country.
Last meeting: Oct. 8, 2017
Duke earned a 4-2 victory over Iowa the last time these competitors met. In their history against each other, the Blue Devils also hold the advantage, holding four wins over Iowa’s one. In 2017, then No. 2 Duke scored twice in the first half over No. 23 Iowa to head into the half. Iowa got on the board with a rebound goal by Sophie Sunderkand and would trade one more goal with Duke before the Blue Devils marked a tally in the 51st minute to secure the win.
Penn State at Maryland — Sep. 20
Finally, a Big Ten matchup to top off our list. These two teams have been competing since 2003, and Maryland seems to have the jump on the Nittany Lions, leading the historical matchups with an 11-5 record. This will be the first Big Ten meeting of the season for each team, and is sure to be a well-battled game. Penn State appeared in its 12th NCAA tournament in the past 14 years last season and faced a tough loss to Harvard in the first round. The Nittany Lions graduate several core offensive talents, but return freshman standout Anna Simon.
Maryland enters 2019 as the national championship runner-up and in the midst of a run of success, winning Big Ten regular season titles in 2015, 2016 and 2018 and a Big Ten tournament title last season.
Last meeting: Oct. 7, 2018
Despite Maryland’s historical record over Penn State, the Nittany Lions earned a 3-1 victory over the previously undefeated Terrapins. The teams nearly battled to a scoreless first half, until Nittany Lions’ Abby Myers tapped the ball in with ten minutes left in the first half. Into the second half, Penn State grabbed two more goals to take a lead. A Maryland penalty shot got the Terps on the board, but couldn’t help to overcome the deficit.