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Hawkeye Soccer, Field Hockey Advance to Big Ten Tournament Finals

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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Junior Melanie Pickert's goal in the 20th minute propelled the University of Iowa soccer team to a 1-0 victory over No. 20 Penn State in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday at Illinois Soccer Stadium. The Hawkeyes will play for their first tournament title in school history on Sunday.

"We're excited. From the first time we played Penn State, we did a couple things better," said head coach Ron Rainey. "This team has really battled the past couple weeks, going back to the Purdue game where we needed to get a result to keep advancing."

Pickert's goal was assisted by freshman Bri Toelle off of a corner kick. Senior Alex Melin went up with multiple defenders to head the ball, and it deflected into the chest of Pickert, who was able to finish for her sixth goal of the season. The assist was Toelle's fourth of the season and her third point of the Big Ten Tournament.

"The referees allowed us to be physical on the repetition, and (Pickert) was very simple on the finish," said Rainey. "Little things like that are what is separating these one goal games this time of the year."

Iowa withstood a barrage of shots from the Nittany Lions in the second half, as Penn State launched 17 shots at the Hawkeye defense. Iowa did not allow a goal in last 45 minutes, tying a school record with its 10th shutout of the season.

"We knew they were going to throw a lot of numbers forward and we needed an effort from all 11 of us," said junior Caitlin Brown. "We wanted to get a second and third goal, but it didn't happen, and we knew we needed to be disciplined and defend."

Sophomore Hannah Clark tied a career high with eight saves in the contest, collecting her 10th shutout of the season, an individual school record.

"Everybody was flying around, putting bodies in front of the ball. They didn't get any clear shots in the second half," said Clark.

Rainey said Clark had her best game of the year on Friday afternoon.

"We want to keep seeing those reps as we head into Sunday," Rainey said.

With the win, Iowa earned its 15th win of the season, extending the school record. The Hawkeyes will face either Nebraska or Indiana in the final on Sunday in Champaign, Ill., at 1 p.m. (CT). The game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

"We're excited, we're ready to be here," said Pickert. "If we can recover, we'll be good to go."

Meanwhile, in Columbus, Ohio, the 20th-ranked University of Iowa field hockey team rallied to defeat No. 6 Penn State in overtime on Friday, 4-3, at Buckeye Varsity Field in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The Hawkeyes erased a two goal deficit, and trailed again by a goal before scoring with no time on the clock to send the game to overtime.

It marks the 10th trip to the tournament championship game for Iowa. The Hawkeyes have claimed five tournament titles in program history (1981, 1994, 2006, 2007, 2008).

"Our team is finally showing what we've been capable of all year," said head coach Tracey Griesbaum. "No better stage to show everyone what you are made of than in the Big Ten Tournament."

Penn State jumped out to an early lead with a goal in the first minute of play. Jenna Chrismer scored for the Nittany Lions after a failed clearing attempt by the Hawkeyes. Penn State added to their lead at the 22:20 mark of the first half as Taylor Herold scored a one-timer off a feed from Whitney Reddig.

Iowa fought back at the start of the second half as sophomore Natalie Cafone put the Hawkeyes on the board at the 46:09 mark in the second half to cut the score in half. Cafone broke away from the defense and beat the Penn State goalkeeper low and to the right for her 20th goal of the season.

The Hawkeyes stayed on the offensive as roughly 11 minutes later the Hawkeyes were awarded a penalty stroke. It was up to Marike Stribos to tie the game for the Hawkeyes and converted, beating the Nittany Lion goalkeeper low and to the right.

"Being down two goals against a team like Penn State is never fun," said Griesbaum. "We knew if we kept working hard, eventually we would get a break."

With 1:11 remaining, Penn State was awarded a penalty stroke after Iowa illegally stopped a shot off a Penn State penalty corner. Brittany Grzywacz took the penalty stroke and scored to give the Nittany Lions a 3-2 lead with just over a minute to play.

The Hawkeyes maintained their composure after the go-ahead goal and forced a penalty corner with seconds remaining. By the time senior Niki Schultheis put the ball in play off the penalty corner, time had expired. Junior Dani Hemeon received the pass, avoided several Nittany Lion defenders, and scored on the backhand with no time left in the game to send the match into overtime.

"The resiliency of our team was very impressive," said Griesbaum.

With all the momentum on its side, Iowa controlled the overtime period from the start. The Hawkeyes took possession from the Nittany Lions and passed to Cafone who took care of the rest. Cafone flew past the Penn State defense and scored her second goal of the game 2:26 into overtime to send the Hawkeyes to Sunday's championship game.

"We dominated overtime," said Griesbaum. "I don't think Penn State ever crossed the 50 yard line. Total team effort; I'm proud of the way we played."

Iowa, the No. 5 seed, will face No. 3 seed Michigan State on Sunday in the championship of the Big Ten Tournament. The title game, set for 11 a.m. (CT), can be seen live on the Big Ten Network.

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