Four Ohio State field hockey players are set to see their final career home games during Senior Day at Buckeye Varsity Field.
Emotions are likely be running high as OSU (6-10, 1-6) faces its rival, No. 14 Michigan (11-6, 5-2) on Sunday with a spot in the Big Ten Tournament on the line.
Eight teams make it to the Big Ten Tournament out of the nine conference members. OSU is currently in a three-way tie with Indiana and Rutgers for the last spot in the conference.
It would mean the world for OSU to get a win for its seniors and continue on to the Big Ten Tournament, coach Anne Wilkinson said.
“It’s not until you’re a senior that you realize how every day is so important,” Wilkinson said. “It’s amazing how many seniors say that to me. The freshmen, sophomores and juniors a lot of the time just go through practice and work hard, but suddenly the seniors are like, ‘This could be my last.’”
The matchup with Michigan remains the most important for OSU and its coach. Wilkinson said she learned early in her career at OSU that Michigan was the most important game.
She added that the games she remembers most are the victories against Michigan.
OSU is poised to play its best against the Wolverines on Sunday, junior back Emma Royce said. Royce added the team is firing on all cylinders and it’s looking forward to coming out strong against its biggest rival.
“I think all the younger players are going to want to play for their seniors,” Royce said. “So they’re gonna use that passion to harbor their talents and their skills. And for the seniors, they’re gonna go out knowing this is probably gonna be one of the last games of their career and use that as a way to go for it with nothing to lose.”
The 14th-ranked Wolverines are coming off a Sunday non-conference victory against New Hampshire, 3-2, at Ocker Field in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan has defeated three ranked teams on the season and sits one game out of first place in the Big Ten entering the final day of the regular season.
It was announced Wednesday that two Michigan seniors had been selected to compete in the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Senior Game. Redshirt-senior midfielder Ainsley McCallister is second the Big Ten in assists with a career-high 17. Redshirt-senior back Leslie Smith was the second player selected for the game thanks to her 12 goals on the season, which leads the Michigan team.
It will not be easy for OSU, but Wilkinson said the will of her team’s seniors could carry them to the finish line.
“You really want to be able to take the pressure off of them on Senior Day and just let them go out and play the game,” Wilkinson said. “You can see it every day in practice, they’re coming out here and giving it everything they have because they don’t want it to end.”
OSU and Michigan are set to finish out the regular season at noon Sunday in Columbus.