The No. 7-ranked Ohio State field hockey team (18-4) will be making its first NCAA Tournament semifinals appearance in program history. On Friday, the Buckeyes face No. 1-ranked University of Maryland (21-1), six-time NCAA Tournament champions.
“Maryland’s a big opponent, traditionally a highly ranked team, winners almost every year of the national championship,” senior forward Jena Cacciatore said.
The Buckeyes are the underdog heading into Friday’s game but are using it to their advantage.
“I think it’s an advantage for us. Maryland might not see us as something that they have to worry about, but I think that we are going to give them a game for sure,” Cacciatore said.
This isn’t OSU’s first daunting task during its tournament run. OSU beat Albany 2-1 in overtime in the first round.
Freshman forward Paula Pastor-Pitarque scored a goal with just 1:30 remaining in regulation. Ten minutes into the overtime period, Pastor-Pitarque scored again for the OSU victory.
The second-round game against Syracuse ended in similar fashion for the Buckeyes. OSU trailed Syracuse 2-1 in the second half when junior midfielder Aisling Coyle tied the game for the Buckeyes, scoring off an assist from Pastor-Pitarque with 12:26 left in regulation. The game went into overtime, when Coyle scored the game-winning goal off a penalty shot.
“Going into overtime both games to get to the Final Four, from behind, shows a lot about (the players’) character and commitment, and I couldn’t be more proud of this team,” OSU coach Anne Wilkinson said.
Even though it will be OSU’s first visit to the Final Four, Coyle said the experience the team has gained from the first two tournament games gives it confidence against Maryland.
“We are relaxed about it. The girls that were playing the past weekend in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight had never even got to that stage before, so we have a lot of confidence and have fun when we play,” Coyle said. “We know that we can do this. We aren’t too worried about Maryland. They should be more worried about us even though we are the underdog.”
OSU plays Maryland at 4:30 p.m. Friday in College Park, Md.