The road has not been kind to Ohio State field hockey so far this season, but the team is looking to clean things up when it travels to Bloomington, Ind., for a 3 p.m. showdown with the No. 18 Indiana Hoosiers on Friday.
The Buckeyes are 1-5 on the road this season and have yet to pick up a Big Ten victory. The team understands the importance of the late conference games and how it can use them as a stepping-stone to the Big Ten Tournament, junior forward Peanut Johnson said.
“I think we take, especially Big Ten games, very seriously,” Johnson said. “And each one, we wanna come out with everything. Typically, at least in my career, we’ve come out in the tournament really hard and played really well, so hopefully we get it together for these last few games.”
For OSU, it’s all about matchups when facing the Hoosiers. Coach Anne Wilkinson said she wants to find the best way to get her playmakers into space.
OSU’s biggest playmaker on the season has been freshman midfielder Maddy Humphrey, who leads the team with 11 goals and 30 points. Humphrey picked up her third Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor Tuesday after compiling seven points last week in games against Rutgers and Kent State.
“My coaches help and even my players help,” Humphrey said. “They’ve taught me the little things that have helped me gotten these awards and helped me get the points I have with all their hard work.”
Humphrey’s 30 points put her fourth in the Big Ten.
Her next biggest test will be squaring off against All-Big Ten performer Audra Heilman, a senior forward for Indiana. Heilman is fifth in the conference in points with 29, and fourth in the conference with 12 goals on the season.
Wilkinson said one of the keys against Indiana will be playing a complete game of field hockey against a team notorious for playing its best late in the game.
“It’s gonna be that we need to be able to play consistent field hockey for 70 minutes first, and be able to play 70 minutes strong no matter what,” Wilkinson said. “Indiana’s a team that usually plays well in the second half. We need to be able to compete for 70 minutes.”
OSU is then set to return home Sunday to play host to No. 12 Iowa at noon.
Iowa boasts the Big Ten’s leader in goals (16) and points (37), Natalie Cafone. The junior forward from Fairfield, N.J., averaged 2.48 points per game in her sophomore season to lead the country.
In her junior campaign, she is besting that mark, averaging 2.85 points per game. Cafone poses a major risk to the Buckeyes’ defense, but OSU’s freshman goalie Liz Tamburro has been under fire before.
She leads the conference with 90 saves on the season, and it will be up to her to deny Cafone around the front of the net.
With six of nine Big Ten teams ranked in the top 20 nationally, the season has become a grind for OSU, Humphrey said, but she added the Buckeyes like it that way.
“It shows that we have a lot of competition nationally,” Humphrey said. “And we’ve played a lot of tough teams. We’ve been right there with them, so hopefully we can just finish it now in the next four games.”
Those four matchups are the only games remaining on OSU’s regular season schedule.