‘The Big Ten is here to play and stake their claim as one of the top conferences in DI’: column

In 2019, zero Big Ten teams made it to the Final Four to compete for a National Championship.


Three of those Final Four teams were from the Atlantic Coast Conference, touted as the best conference in NCAA Division I college field hockey.


After a slight pause in the action, due to a global pandemic, the field hockey season resumed in spring 2021, where two Big Ten  teams competed in the Final Four: Iowa and Michigan, who fell to eventual champion North Carolina.


A few months later, Northwestern earned their first title in program history and the first Big Ten school to win the championship since Maryland in 2011 (who was actually in the ACC at the time).


2022 arrives and three of the four teams in the Final Four are Big Ten teams.


The Big Ten is here to play and stake their claim as one of the top conferences in DI. With top players such as Sophia Gladieux, Hope Rose and Lauren Wadas returning, the conference is ready for another year of top-end talent.


After watching opening weekend, no team in the Big Ten looks to be an easy out. No. 7 Iowa upset No. 1 North Carolina on the road, while unranked Indiana pushed No. 14 Liberty to overtime. No. 18 Rutgers and No. 3 Maryland both completed sweeps out on the West Coast.


Maryland newcomer Sammy Popper has already made herself comfortable with her new team, scoring twice on their California road swing. Ohio State’s Makenna Webster finished the weekend with two goals and an assist after being captain for the U.S. Collegiate Select Ice Hockey team in Lake Placid, N.Y. the week before.


Michigan State’s Emma O’Neill opened her senior campaign with a hat trick against Boston University. Indiana’s Sydney Keld continues to be an anchor in the Indiana defense.


There’s a lot of talent in the Big Ten and this is just the beginning for a conference to be reckoned with.


Players to Watch

ACC: Grace Delmotte (Wake Forest) — The senior midfield started all 21 matches for the Demon Deacons last season and finished tied for second with 23 points. She finished with  13 assists, which was tied for best in the ACC. She earned Second Team All-ACC and Second Team All-South Region Honors.

Big Ten: Leanna Bough (Ohio State) In her senior season, Bough recorded career highs goals (8) assists (3) and points (19). With her fifth year of eligibility, she has played in 68 career games and is currently the active leader in goals (16) and points (37). She has logged 3454 minutes so far in the midfield.

Big East: Julia Bressler (UConn) — The freshman forward led UConn with 8 goals and 17 points as she appeared in 14 games. She earned All Big East Second team and NFHCA All-Region honors for her effort.

A-10: Lily Santi (Saint Joes) – The junior had a breakout season in 2022 after finishing with 18 goals and nine assists for 45 points. She was named Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Year and named the NFHCA All-Region First Team.

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