David Simonis / Lantern photographer
It might be tough to recognize Ohio State field hockey goaltender Ally Tunitis when she is hidden behind her equipment in the net, but her presence rarely goes unnoticed.
The senior goaltender, also known by her nickname, Tuna, has been so influential to the team’s success that her Twitter handle, @AllyTuna, has been getting postgame tweets from friends and fans that end with “#fearthefish.”
Tunitis has been a force between the pipes since she started sporting the Scarlet and Gray back in 2008.
Tunitis recorded her third shutout of the season and 13th of her career last week in the Buckeyes’ 2-0 win over No. 8-Penn State. She is now third on the OSU all-time shutouts list, passing former Buckeye goaltender Kim Willis.
Not only has Tunitis set the bar high for the future of the program with her shutouts and dominant play, but she also ranks first in career goals-against average (1.41) and holds the single-season wins record for OSU goalkeepers (18).
But according to Tunitis, the records and awards don’t mean nearly as much to her as one thing; being named a captain her senior season.
“The records with my name I look at as team efforts,” Tunitis said. “I didn’t win those games on my own and I owe it to my teammates.”
Tunitis’ modest attitude has been something that has kept her grounded ever since she began playing field hockey competitively in third grade.
She hails from eastern Pennsylvania and attended nationally recognized field hockey powerhouse Emmaus High School in Emmaus, Pa. Growing up donning a goalie mask was how her leadership was born, she said.
“As the goalie. I don’t have much of a voice for the entire field, so I am the one who is reinforcing everything that Berta (Queralt) and Jenn (Sciulli) are saying,” Tunitis said.
Her teammates will be the first to say how powerful her voice truly is, on and off the field.
“(Ally) has taught me more than I ever have in such a short period of time,” said sophomore backup goalie Emma Voelker. “She has brought our team together and helped us focus on one game at a time.”
As a goalie in any sport, it is inevitable that there is a lot of pressure, but Tunitis credits her present success to her experience from her freshman year.
She spent the first half of her freshman campaign injured and as the backup until she took over the starting role with seven games left in the regular season.
Tunitis finished the season with a 6-1 record and backstopped a run to the Big Ten championship game in 2008.
“I learned to play fearless,” Tunitis said. “It was moving so fast and I remember a moment where an upperclassman told me to not play scared. That is something I look back on during games now. I will always hold that with me.
“I learned to play fearlessly and go at it.”
Playing with no fear has been a fixture in Tunitis’ repertoire as the starter in net for the past two seasons for the Buckeyes. A trait that head coach Anne Wilkinson noticed the first time she saw the goaltender play.
“She’s just competitive,” Wilkinson said. “She will do whatever it takes for this team to win and put the team first.”
You can find the calm, cool, and collected Tunitis listening to “I Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty on the bus to any road game, a song that defines the Buckeyes’ battle for a bid to this year’s NCAA Championship as their season has had its ups and downs.
Even so, the bar has been set high after an appearance in the national tournament the last two seasons, but just as Voelker said, the Buckeyes will take it one game at a time.
The No. 17 Buckeyes (10-7, 3-2) finish their season against No. 20-ranked Northwestern at 4 p.m. Friday at Lakeside Field in Evanston, Ill.