Ohio State’s field hockey team has faced some tough times during the past few years, but the leadership of senior goalkeeper Liz Tamburro has helped the team endure and overcome the difficulties.
From finishing 0-7 in Big Ten play in 2014 to the disappointing early elimination in the Big Ten tournament to end the 2015 season and a rough 2016 season culminating in a coaching change, the Buckeyes’ senior class has experienced much turmoil.
“We got together in preseason this year as a senior class and we were like, ‘We want to set the standard for years to come. We have an opportunity to redefine what OSU field hockey means,’” Tamburro said. “And that really meant a lot to us. And looking back at past years we’ve had some ups and downs, but now we can set the tone for the rest of OSU field hockey for years to come.”
A lot has changed since Tamburro entered Ohio State as a wide-eyed freshman. Several players have transferred in and out of the program and a new head coach was hired, but one constant has been Tamburro in the cage.
Growing up as one of six kids in a small ranch in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, Tamburro said she was nervous to live in a new city and be on her own for the first time — nearly seven hours from home.
Tamburro is now a four-year starter and two-year captain, but did not expect either of those roles when she first came to Columbus. Due to the returning starter at goalkeeper becoming ineligible, she was named starter as a freshman. Two years later, the small-town Pennsylvanian was voted to be a captain by her teammates as a junior.
“Last year came as a surprise to me that my teammates saw something in me — a leadership role and as someone who can set the example and they follow,” Tamburro said. “I don’t really think I’m a natural leader; I think I kind of lead by example.”
She said removing the fear of putting herself out there was the biggest step to becoming a better leader.
“I feel like as a captain, that’s something that I’ve learned — sometimes you just have to say what needs to be said — and people may not like you because of it, but that’s what you have to do.”
Tamburro has certainly gained the respect of her peers. The coaches have taken notice of her ability to lead, as well.
“She’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever coached and I’ve coached some great players in my time,” head coach Jarred Martin said. “I think she loves this team more than anything.”
Tamburro credits her coaches for giving guidance and helping make her into the person she is today. She said assistant coach Homero Pardi has helped her all four years and Martin significantly aided her in his first year as head coach. She also has developed a special bond with assistant coach and goalie coach Kate Lipton.
Lipton spends countless hours helping Tamburro work on both her skills as a goalkeeper and the mental aspects behind protecting the net as the last line of defense.
“I think she’s the type of leader who will walk the walk,” Lipton said. “She’ll set high expectations, but she’ll also be one the hardest working people out there — she really shows by example.”
Tamburro prides herself on constantly working to improve and her teammates have followed her lead. She and her teammates have enjoyed their best season in their time at Ohio State. The team’s 9-8 record might not jump off the page, but the team has defeated three opponents — No. 9 Louisville, No. 11 Stanford and No. 18 Rutgers — which were ranked at the time of the matchups.
A big part of the team’s success has been the play of Tamburro, who has recorded career bests in shutouts (4) and goals against average (1.42), good for third and fourth in the Big Ten, respectively. Tamburro’s impact stretches beyond the field of play fellow four-year starter and forward Maddy Humphrey said.
“Ever since day one, she’s been supportive and loving to me,” Humphrey said. “And as a person, she’s amazing. Teammate, amazing. Friend, amazing. I’ve had some hard times and she’s always that girl that’s there for you, and she’s there for everyone on the team no matter what.”
Senior back Maartje Bongers said Tamburro has helped her immensely since she came to Ohio State from the Netherlands two years ago. Bongers said she also cherishes the lifelong bond between herself and Tamburro.
“She’s like my personal taxi driver because I don’t have a car, so she drives me everywhere,” Bongers said. “She helps me; she’s one of my best friends on the team. She’s really important to me and to the team.”
Tamburro is like a goalkeeper when praised for her achievements, deflecting the credit to her teammates and coaches. But as someone who has spent the past few years working with Tamburro, Lipton said the team reaps great benefits from having her in goal.
“Liz is a great goalkeeper with an outstanding work ethic and her leadership and drive have played a big role in the team’s success,” Lipton said. “And I just feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to work with her these past three years; it’s really been a pleasure.”