A team of new talent is about to head to the field for its first test.
The Ohio State field hockey team is set to begin its season Friday at 3 p.m. at Buckeye Varsity Field against fifth-ranked Syracuse with 12 freshmen and one sophomore transfer on a team that finished 6-13 in 2013.
OSU coach Anne Wilkinson said she believes the fresh faces can help improve the program.
“It’s a challenge I like to have,” said Wilkinson, who is entering her 19th season at OSU. “They came in with some strong fitness and they’re really working hard to fit into our system.”
Wilkinson said she asked a lot of her upperclassman to help bring their new teammates up to speed on the college game.
Team co-captain and senior midfielder Kaitlyn Wagner said the upperclassmen have all taken on leadership roles off the field to make sure they come together as a cohesive group.
“Me and (junior back Emma Royce), my other captain, we were voted in hopefully because of our knowledge on the field and that’s what we want to focus on,” Wagner said. “Everything else we have (are) leadership roles. Taking care of freshmen, go to rides, making sure they have all their travel gear, making sure everyone’s in check and learning the way of OSU field hockey.”
The Buckeyes face a Syracuse team Friday that went 16-4 in 2013, finishing No. 2 in the final National Field Hockey Coaches Association Poll.
Wagner, who has started 59 consecutive games in her OSU career, said she believes Syracuse’s best trait is its ability to problem-solve. She said she’s looking at Friday’s showdown from a defensive mindset.
“Syracuse has some quick forwards,” she said. “Our game plan would probably be to isolate their forwards and block their center mid from doing any receiving or distribution.”
Six starters return this year, including OSU’s leading scorer last season — junior forward Peanut Johnson,a native of Dayton.
Johnson said the key to taking down an opponent like Syracuse is moving on the field as a unit.
“We all have to move together. We can’t just have one person trying to do it because they’ll cut us up,” Johnson said. “We’re all trying to get on the same page.”
Wagner said she and her teammates are trying to improve daily and the ultimate goal for the season is to win.
“I want to see everyone involved and everyone enjoy it, and through enjoying it comes winning,” Wagner said.
Wilkinson reiterated that sentiment and said the team can do whatever it puts its mind to.
“We had a couple rough spells last year where things just didn’t go our way,” Wilkinson said. “But I think this year this team worked really hard through the winter and the spring and they’re determined.”
After the game against the Orange, OSU is set to head to Albany, N.Y., to play the University at Albany on Monday at 1 p.m.