The Ohio State women’s basketball team kicks off its season with the Women’s National Invitational Tournament this weekend.
The Buckeyes face Eastern Illinois in the first round on Friday. EIU went 24-9 in 2009.
This is the first ever meeting between EIU and the Buckeyes and EIU’s first ever appearance in the WNIT.
The Buckeyes’ last appearance in the WNIT was in 2004, when they fell to Notre Dame in the championship game.
This season, the Buckeyes are exploding with talent.
The team boasts last season’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, sophomore point guard Samantha Prahalis, and Big Ten Player of the Year, junior center Jantel Lavender.
The duo has a connection unmatched by Big Ten competitors. Lavender feels confident in Prahalis under the basket, and Prahalis is able to find Lavender with her look-away passes.
The team also returns the two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in senior guard Shavelle Little.
Coach Jim Foster has recruited talented newcomers to the program as well.
The Buckeyes signed the No. 1 recruit from Minnesota, Tayler Hill, one of four freshmen on the team. Hill was a two-time Player of the Year and scored more than 4,000 points in her high school career.
“This year the talent in our freshmen will take our team to another level because they are so competitive,” Lavender said. “We have a lot of leaders which will change the team a lot.”
After taking the Big Ten regular season and the Big Ten conference tournament titles last season, the team’s goals are extremely high this year.
“I think we’re capable of winning the national championship,” Prahalis said.
Preseason polls predict that No. 3 Ohio State will win the Big Ten for the sixth consecutive year and the Big Ten conference tournament title for the third consecutive year.
The Buckeyes tip off Friday at 5 p.m. in St. John Arena.
The victor will play in the second round Sunday 2 p.m. against the winner of the Bowling Green vs. Chicago State matchup. Semifinals will be Nov. 18-19, and the championship game will be played Sunday, Nov. 22.