Fresh off an overtime victory against Ball State, the Ohio State field hockey team is set to welcome No. 16 Michigan State to Buckeye Varsity Field on Friday to kick off Big Ten play.
For OSU (2-3), the path to a conference championship could start with playing well against the Spartans.
“I think we all just have to realize how important these Big Ten games are,” junior forward Peanut Johnson said Wednesday. “The NCAA Tournament is super selective, so it’s imperative that we win the whole Big Ten. We can’t really have any off games.”
The Spartans bring a 4-2 record into Friday’s contest after outlasting Kent State, 4-3, in overtime and handling Richmond, 6-1, last weekend in Kent, Ohio.
Michigan State’s offense is averaging more than three goals per game in 2014 behind the play of senior forward Abby Barker, a Columbus native and the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. The senior forward has tallied seven goals and five assists.
The Spartans’ speed is the biggest concern for OSU, which is a more deliberate team while attacking.
OSU coach Anne Wilkinson said she’s working on different matchups against Michigan State so her best players can use their speed to the fullest.
“It’s always a great matchup between our two teams. They’re fast. They love to counter,” Wilkinson said. “You should expect an up-tempo game.”
OSU lost a pair of games by one goal to the Spartans in 2013, including a 2-1 loss in the Big Ten Tournament.
Freshman midfielder Maddy Humphrey said she’s focused on staying aggressive to help her team get on the board early and often.
“I’m really trying to focus a little more on finishing,” Humphrey said. “Because the last few games I haven’t been finishing my shots.”
Humphrey leads the Buckeyes with eight points on two goals and four assists.
OSU is set to continue its three-game homestand Sunday against Appalachian State at noon.
The Mountaineers (2-4) are coming off a 3-2 overtime victory against Davidson on Sunday, and they feature a balanced offensive attack. Three Appalachian State players have tallied six points each early in the season.
If OSU can take both games this weekend, the team will be better .500 for the first time in 2014. Humphrey said OSU is ready for the challenge.
“We want to just play as a team, win as a team and just have a good time,” Humphrey said. “And finish.”
OSU is set to take on the Spartans at 3 p.m. Friday.