The Ohio State field hockey team (5-5, 1-0) started off Big Ten play with a victory, defeating the No.11-ranked Michigan Wolverines (6-3, 0-1) in overtime, 2-1 on Sept. 23.
Junior forward Danica Deckard led the way for the Buckeyes in the win, scoring two goals, including the game-winner with 1:32 remaining. Deckard’s first goal came in the fourth minute of the first half off a pass from sophomore forward Arielle Cowie.
The victory has the Buckeyes and head coach Anne Wilkinson feeling confident heading into the second half of the season, which includes five of their six Big Ten games.
“(Michigan) is a top notch team,” Wilkinson said. “They’re excellent. We did a great job stopping their attack. It’s a great start to the Big Ten season.”
The win against the Wolverines was the first win over a ranked opponent by OSU this season. The Buckeyes came into the Michigan game having won two in a row, but losing all three of their games against ranked teams, with losses to No. 15 Duke, No. 5 Syracuse and No. 2 Old Dominion in non-conference play.
“It’s exciting,” Deckard said. “It’s definitely a momentum builder. Hopefully we can take this momentum and take it on to the rest of our Big Ten games.”
The Buckeyes are set to play Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State and Northwestern in the Big Ten season. Of those five teams, only Michigan State is not ranked in the top 20 of the National Field Hockey Coaches Association poll.
Wilkinson is not looking at one specific team as OSU’s biggest competition in the Big Ten.
“They’re all tough. Every one of them plays different styles, different ways of play. Every time we play a Big 10 team we know it’s going to be a fight,” Wilkinson said.
One of the players that will be vital to the Buckeyes success throughout the Big Ten season is junior forward Berta Queralt.
A two-time All-American originally from Barcelona, Spain, Queralt leads OSU this season with 16 points, including seven goals. The forward is currently in the top-10 of Ohio State’s all-time scoring list.
Queralt has her sights set on a repeat of last season’s team success.
“We were Big Ten co-champions last year, so we want to repeat. We liked that experience last year,” Queralt said.
Last season, OSU shared the 2010 Big Ten regular season title with Michigan after both posted 5-1 conference records.
One of the keys to the Buckeyes repeating as regular season champions will be their defense. OSU’s defense looked good against Michigan, shutting out the Wolverines for all of the second half after allowing a goal in the 13th minute of the first half.
“We do have a really strong defense, we’ve been playing together for a while,” Queralt said.
“They do a great job back there,” she said. “We’re lucky to have them.”
Senior captain Jenn Sciulli is one of the leaders of the Buckeyes’ defense. Sciulli leads the Big Ten in defensive saves this season with five.
Junior goalkeeper Ally Tunitis is another leader on the defensive end. Tunitis has 41 saves this season, third in the Big Ten.
Queralt said the Buckeyes will need to improve on the offensive end if they are going to compete for a Big Ten title.
“I’d probably say corners, getting more goals out of corners. In general, getting more goals, being able to take advantage of opportunities,” Queralt said when asked what OSU needs to improve on.
Wilkinson believes her Buckeyes can improve on both ends of the field.
“Every team can get better in all areas,” Wilkinson said.
While OSU does need to improve, when Queralt looks forward on the season, she has her sights set on one goal in particular.
“I think we want a ring,” Queralt said with a smile.
Ohio State will play Sept. 27 at Ball State (1-6) before returning to Big Ten action at home to play No. 18 Indiana (7-2, 1-0) at 3 p.m. on Sept. 30.