As junior forward Peanut Johnson was darting in front of the net to score a game-winning overtime goal, Ohio State field hockey coach Anne Wilkinson went on as if nothing special was happening.
Johnson’s goal gave OSU its first Big Ten win of the season against Indiana, and — more importantly — gave Wilkinson her 300th career victory.
“That’s all we were thinking about,” Johnson said. “Just win for Anne. We’re really happy we got to be a part of her 300th.”
Wilkinson, a West Chester, Pa., native, became the 15th coach in Division I field hockey history to reach the mark.
Wilkinson’s assistant coach Homero Pardi picked her up after the game and the team celebrated by dumping ice on her. Wilkinson received roses and a picture frame from the team.
Despite the team’s struggles this season, Wilkinson said she couldn’t have been happier for the group to be involved in the moment.
“I was very touched,” Wilkinson said. “I was like, ‘Wow.’ I’m excited this group was a part of it. Our record (6-10, 1-6) doesn’t really show our work rate.”
Despite the hoopla that took place, Wilkinson remained calm and humbled.
“I was really just trying to get a win in the conference,” Wilkinson said. “I’m not one to focus on records, though they are big.”
Wilkinson grew up on the East Coast, about an hour outside of Philadelphia. Her face is still “painted green” for her Philadelphia Eagles and she still describes herself as a “Philly girl.”
After playing field hockey and lacrosse at Delaware and leading the Blue Hens to the lacrosse national title in 1983, Wilkinson moved on to become field hockey coach at American University in Washington, D.C., in 1987.
A lifelong East Coast resident, it wasn’t until Wilkinson visited Columbus that she realized how much she loved the tradition at OSU.
“When I came out to Ohio State and saw the playground I would get to play in, I was like, ‘Wow,’” she said. “Being a part of the Ohio State athletic department is a dream come true.”
Since becoming OSU’s coach in 1996, Wilkinson has accumulated 221 victories and numerous memories, she said.
In 2010, Wilkinson led OSU to the program’s first NCAA Final Four in school history after defeating Syracuse, 3-2, in overtime in the second round. She said she’d never forget then-junior midfielder Aisling Coyle throwing her stick in the air after hitting the game-winning penalty stroke.
Freshman forward Annabel Sams said Wikinson always gets the best out of her players because she is something of a team mom.
“We have a really good set up for warming up before games, really good pregame meal and she always makes sure we’re focused,” Sams said. “If anyone’s having issues, we can talk about it and then (Wilkinson will) tell us what to do and we really improve.”
Wilkinson’s tutelage produced 22 All-Americans and 66 All-Big Ten selections in her first 18 seasons in Columbus.
Despite the success, Wilkinson said she still finds it difficult to recruit top East Coast field hockey talent to come play in the Midwest.
“They think we’re in a different time zone,” Wilkinson said, referencing OSU’s proximity from major talent pools like Philadelphia and New Jersey.
But players often fall in love with the tradition the way Wilkinson did, she said.
Wilkinson still goes home to Pennsylvania for the holidays or to check out high school field hockey action, but she has not tired from her job at OSU.
The 27-year veteran coach said she wants to continue to convey her passion for the game as long as she physically is able.
“I’m a coach. I’m a teacher,” she said. “This is what I really enjoy.”