Photo courtesy of the Ohio State Athletic Department
When sitting down with Ohio State field hockey (8-7, 2-2) teammates, junior forward Berta Queralt and sophomore midfielder Paula Pastor-Pitarque, you may get the notion that they have been Buckeyes for life.
Although the duo didn’t quite know what a Buckeye was until they got to Columbus, their personalities have been ones that have traveled with them overseas from Barcelona, Spain, to add to the team’s tenacity since day one.
Once teammates on the national team for Spain and the same club team in Sant Cugat del Valles, a city within the country, the two girls built a relationship that soon enough would find itself in the heart of Ohio.
The courting of the players began when Pastor-Pitarque was 13 and Queralt was 12. Pastor-Pitarque said it was at that age when they became surrounded by everything that was OSU.
“I remember seeing Saskia Mueller’s [a former Buckeye and club teammate in Spain] stick and it had the Buckeye pride stickers on it and I recognized it was not a normal stick, that is when I knew it was something very different,” Pastor-Pitarque said.
For their first trip to the United States with their club, American universities were something previously unseen.
“I remember when our club coach Inako Puzo, a former Buckeye assistant, was showing me videos of Ohio State and I could not believe him,” Pastor-Pitarque said. “There was no way I could come here to study, learn the language, and above everything, play.”
When the two came to America and saw what college was like, the spirit and love for athletics were imprinted in their heads.
Once the idea of playing overseas became real for the two Spaniards, they came one after the other. Queralt came to OSU straight out of high school in 2009, and Pastor-Pitarque, who wasn’t set on the idea of American college at first , came a year later in 2010.
The English language came quicker for Queralt than it did for Pastor-Pitarque, but it has been a barrier that both have managed to break.
“When I first got here I would sit in the locker room and hear so many different conversations,” Queralt said. “I would have no idea what was going on, so at first it was hard to feel as a part of the team, but eventually I would learn.”
The two have become more than just friends, and are now two of the leaders and regular starters of the No. 17 Ohio State field hockey team.
Queralt, now a captain, has led the Buckeyes in scoring and has become arguably the most dynamic force on the squad.
“Her composure on the field as well as her ability to score goals on set pieces is what Berta brings to the team,” coach Anne Wilkinson said. “She brings so much to the field with her love for the game.”
Wilkinson had similar praise for Pastor-Pitarque.
“Paula’s intensity and passion for the game is so important to the team,” Wilkinson said. “Her ability to distribute the ball and be involved in every play is what makes her so vital and so important for our team.”
The international duo came from afar, but the two have still kept the support they have had since their first swing of the stick; their parents.
According to the girls, their parents will travel for a weekend or two during the season to see them play, something they have done their entire lives.
“From when we played on the same club team in Sant Cugat, our parents have always been there to support us,” Queralt said. “Now it is hard because they cannot travel for every game, but that does not stop them from seeing each and every play.”
Queralt’s and Pastor-Pitarque’s fathers both watch the games on the OSU athletics website Gamecast, which will track every play of every game.
“He will watch all of these games in Spain on the computer and will text Paula’s parents after an exciting play,” Queralt added. “My father loves statistics, so sometimes he will spit out things that I don’t even know.”
Queralt led the team with 46 points as a freshman in 2009 and 47 as a sophomore in 2010.
Pastor-Pitarque’s campaign has made a big contribution as well, racking up 26 points as a freshman in 2010.
“Their ability to read each other on and off the field is what has made these girls so great together,” Wilkinson said. “There are so many times when you will see Paula ask Berta to explain something, so they compliment each other very well.”
The two have big expectations as they wrap up the regular season and head into tournament play starting in November. Pastor-Pitarque said the season will be a failure if they do not lock up the conference title and make a Final Four run.
“The team that we have, we really can gain something positive from this season and learn for the future because we are only going up from here,” Queralt said. “Also, we don’t have rings in Spain for anything, so I would really like one of those.”
The team fell to Michigan State by a score of 2-1 over the weekend in an overtime loss, bringing the team to a conference record of 2-2. They look to bounce back after consecutive losses as they travel to Miami Tuesday to play the RedHawks in Oxford, Ohio at 3 p.m.