Ohio State freshman midfield Leanne Bough (1) runs the ball down the field during the game against Louisville on Sept. 15. Ohio State lost 2-1. Credit: Rachel Jaycox | For The Lantern

When Ohio State field hockey opens up Big Ten play at home Friday, it’ll do so against a Northwestern team riding a four-win streak.

After winning their first three games, the No. 12 Buckeyes (4-2) lost two of three games ahead of its matchup against the No. 13 Wildcats (6-2).

Ohio State head coach Jarred Martin said his team has bounced back from a tough 2-1 loss against No. 7 Louisville Sunday with a week of work tailored to its first conference opponent.

“The Big Ten conference is one of the best in the country,” Martin said. “We know it’s going to be a great game. It brings out the things you’ve been practicing, the things you’ve been training for. It’s early in the season, which gives us the opportunity to build off of [this].”

Northwestern redshirt freshman forward Bente Baekers received Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors this past week and leads the Big Ten with seven goals and 29 shots on the season.

Ohio State sophomore goalkeeper and the Sept. 9 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Aaliyah Hernandez said shutting Baekers down will be vital in defeating the Wildcats.

“What we can do as a defense will be to keep her outside of our circle and keep our entire defense strong, keeping our sticks low, our bodies strong, making sure we’re tough on our defense,” Hernandez said.

It will be crucial for Ohio State to get back on defense as fast as possible, Hernandez said, as she expects the Northwestern offense will have more shots on goal than the two they put up in 2018’s 2-1 loss to the Buckeyes.

Hernandez boasts three shutouts this season, including an 11-0 win over Central Michigan this past Friday.

Martin said his team, which is No. 2 in the nation with 4.33 goals per game, is prepared for the matchup and needs to stay the course to find success against the Wildcats.

“We can turn it on and score goals fairly easily,” Martin said. “I think we’re one of the best in the country right now.” 

Ohio State’s prolific attack is led by freshman midfielder Mackenzie Allessie and senior midfielder Esther Clotet Alsina, who are tied with Baekers for the conference lead with one goal per game. Martin called his pair of high-scoring midfielders a “dynamic duo.”

Despite the tough conference opponent, Martin said he wants his players to enjoy big games like this. 

“They have some great players. We have some great players,” Martin said. “With the conference being so close, you want to try to get every win you can.”

Opening face off between the Buckeyes and Wildcats will begin 3 p.m. Friday at Buckeye Varsity Field.