Ohio State field hockey is set to embark into unknown territory.
OSU (3-6, 0-2) is scheduled to begin a three-game road trip Friday at 3:30 p.m. in College Park, Md., against the No. 2 Maryland Terrapins before a matchup with another top-three team on Sunday.
OSU coach Anne Wilkinson said she’s excited about going on the road with her young team and bonding with her athletes.
“I’m looking forward to it actually,” Wilkinson said Sunday. “I’m looking forward to getting on the road with this team.”
Maryland (7-2, 2-1) has been ranked in the top five of the National Field Hockey Coaches Association Coaches’ Poll in 16 consecutive weeks dating back to 2013. And Maryland has appeared in the top five nationally in 158 of 163 rankings since 1999, according to a Maryland release.
The Terrapins bring an elite level of field hockey to the Big Ten in their first season in the conference.
“I am really excited to have Maryland in the Big Ten,” junior forward Peanut Johnson said in an email. “They are an excellent program and I think they will make the conference stronger and more competitive.”
Maryland is coming off back-to-back conference wins last weekend against Michigan and Michigan State. Senior midfielder Maxine Fluharty — who is tied for second on the team in points — led the way Sunday in East Lansing, Mich., with two goals in Maryland’s 4-2 victory against Michigan State.
Maryland freshman forward Moira Putsch tallied three points on a goal and an assist over the weekend and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week on Tuesday.
After its matchup with Maryland, OSU is scheduled to travel to Charlottesville, Va., to face the No. 3 Virginia Cavaliers. In all, the Buckeyes have played, or are scheduled to play 11 ranked opponents in 2014.
The schedule could seem daunting, but junior back Emma Royce said OSU takes pride in playing the best teams in the country day in and day out.
“It is not easy playing ranked teams consistently, however we take it is as a positive challenge,” Royce said via email. “Every battle we face, we know we are improving. The team goal is to use all these challenges to help us peak for the Big Ten Tournament.”
Midfielder Tara Vittese was the first Virginia freshman to earn preseason All-ACC honors and has tallied 31 points in 11 games this season.
The Buckeyes’ defense must be ready for a high-powered group with four players scoring eight or more goals on the season.
“The defensive mindset will be one of strength,” Royce said. “It is crucial that we play with more physicality and that we are decisive in our defensive strategy.
“Commitment to a strong defense will make or break us against the best teams.”
OSU’s matchup with Virginia is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Buckeyes are scheduled for one more road game after the weekend, against Rutgers in Piscataway, N.J., on Oct. 10, before playing at home again against Kent State Oct. 12.