The No. 7-ranked Ohio State field hockey team’s main goal entering the 2010 NCAA Tournament Saturday is simple: win the first two rounds of the tournament and advance to the Final Four.
“Even from preseason, our biggest goal was making the Final Four,” senior back Bri Doak said. “If we play like I know we can play, I don’t see why we won’t be in the Final Four next weekend.”
OSU (16-4) will play the No. 15-ranked University of Albany (16-5) in the first round of the tournament. Because the bracket for the tournament was not released until Tuesday night, the OSU coaching staff has had little time to scout Albany. However, OSU coach Anne Wilkinson has seen enough to know Albany will be a tough challenge for the Buckeyes.
“They’re strong. They’re very, very strong with their tackling,” Wilkinson said. “They have great individual skills and they are very disciplined with the way they play.”
The Buckeyes enter the NCAA Tournament coming off a disappointing loss to the Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament Finals. Before the loss to UM, OSU had a 10-game winning streak. With the winning streak gone, OSU players are now looking at the NCAA Tournament as a fresh start.
“The Michigan game was a disappointing loss for us,” senior forward Jena Cacciatore said. “The NCAA (Tournament) is a new season. We are 0-0 across the board, so anything can happen.”
Cacciatore is excited for Saturday’s game against Albany for more than a chance to make up for the UM loss. Albany’s senior midfielder Sarah Deane is Cacciatore’s good friend and former high school teammate.
“I’ve been asking coach to play her for years. When I found out, I knew it would be bittersweet because one of us will get knocked out,” Cacciatore said. “It’s taught me I better be careful what I wish for.”
The game will be special for Doak as well. She will be making her 80th career start, setting a new OSU record.
“When (Doak) came in as a freshman, she kind of flew under the radar, but she’s always been a constant for us,” Wilkinson said. “She came in with great fitness and has maintained it. She has earned every minute.”
OSU plays Albany at 2 p.m. Saturday in State College, Pa. The winner will advance to the second round and play at 2 p.m. Sunday against the winner of Penn State and Syracuse.