Ohio State field hockey is set to take on the two-time defending Big Ten champions, Penn State, coming off a loss.
The Buckeyes and the No. 10 Nittany Lions are set to face-off Sunday at Buckeye Varsity Field at 1 p.m.
OSU (3-5) lost to then-No. 11 Louisville (7-1) on Tuesday afternoon, a game in which senior midfielder Kaitlyn Wagner scored two goals. The game marked the third time OSU taken a late loss against a ranked opponent.
Wagner said Wednesday that she believes the team is on the verge of a breakthrough.
“It will be a battle for us,” she said via email of OSU’s showdown with Penn State (6-2). “But I think mentally and physically we are getting stronger and will hopefully be prepared for a win.
“The will and heart is there. We just need to have strong defense and strong finishes.”
The Nittany Lions are coming off a 5-1 defeat of Lock Haven University on Tuesday, and they’re looking to rebound after losing their Big Ten opener to Michigan on Sept. 19 at home.
Penn State’s leading scorer, senior forward Taylor Herold, found the back of the net twice against Lock Haven to bring her season total to eight goals.
Herold is four points away from 100 in her career, tallying 42 goals and 12 assists in 72 games.
“What worries me about PSU is their fast forwards and quick passing,” Wagner said. “They are a team that is always aggressive and strong.”
OSU coach Anne Wilkinson said she’s happy with her team’s aggression right now, but they have to protect the net against Penn State’s high-powered offense.
“We have very good balance on our attack right now,” Wilkinson said. “But we will need to limit the amount of shots we are currently giving up, especially against a team like PSU.”
In its three games against ranked opponents — Syracuse, Michigan State and Louisville — this season, OSU allowed an average of 13 shots on goal. Freshman goalkeeper Liz Tamburro said, despite the pressure she carries in front of the net, she is confident her team can get it done against the defending conference champions.
“Every game is a challenge. It does not matter what title the team has,” Tamburro said. “It is about who shows up to play. I have confidence that we will rise to the occasion and give it all we’ve got.”
Penn State leads the all-time series with OSU, 34-10-2, dating back to 1977. The Nittany Lions have won the last two meetings, including a 6-1 victory in State College, Pa., in 2013.
OSU has three days off to get ready for Sunday’s showdown, while Penn State travels to East Lansing, Mich., Friday afternoon to face Michigan State.