Columbus, Ohio - The Ohio State women’s soccer team, which hosts Kentucky at 7 p.m. Wednesday in an exhibition match at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, was picked to finish fifth in the Big Ten Conference this season by a vote of the conference head coaches. The Buckeyes, under the direction of 12th-year coach Lori Walker and one of five teams from the Big Ten to qualify for the 2007 NCAA tournament, were out-polled by Penn State, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana the other four conference teams that made the 2007 NCAA field in the poll released today (August 18) by the Big Ten.
Walker is concerned how her Buckeyes finish and not how they are perceived in the preseason. With that, she has emphasized a simple goal for the 2008 Buckeyes: win enough games to be in a position to compete for a Big Ten championship and accumulate enough impressive performances throughout the season to guarantee a spot in the NCAA tournament field.
It will be easier said than done, especially with a team that features 24 freshmen and sophomores on the 29-person roster. But it is a viable goal. In fact, competing for championships and NCAA berths is always the goal at Ohio State.
The team accomplished its goal last year with a roster that featured 13 freshmen and with a lineup that included at least five freshmen starters every game. The 12-win season, which included 11 games against teams that would qualify for the NCAA tournament, culminated with the program’s fourth appearance in the NCAA championships in the last six years.
Enough key performers from last year return to provide leadership, including seniors Lisa Collison, Caitlin Colfer and Amy Graeff and juniors Ashley Bowyer and Lauren Robertson. They will have all the help they need from a sophomore class that is experienced, talented and has been fast-tracked by the coaching staff to take on leadership responsibilities.
“The leadership component will be a very important piece so that we are all moving in the same direction and so that we don’t fall into the youthful mistake of everyone having their own agenda,” Walker said. “We spent our spring season focusing on everyone being on the same page.
“We’ve helped our freshmen from 2007 to understand the bigger picture earlier in their career. Usually we wait until their junior year to make them understand, but we need their help transitioning the 2008 freshmen class. And for the most part they have all responded well.”
EXPERIENCE AT EVERY POSITION
Despite being few in numbers, Walker will have a senior or junior working at each line position in front of the veteran and competitive goalkeeper Robertson. Graeff is with the defenders, Bowyer with the midfielders and Collison and Colfer with the forwards.
Additionally, nine sophomores with significant game experience return: defenders Lauren Beachy and Lauren Steuer, midfielders Alex Burzynski, Emily Esbrook, Courtney Jenkins and Shawn Skladany, and forwards Genna Brand, Laura Roberts and Ali Schwach. A 10th sophomore Cassie Dickerson has been injured in each of the past two fall seasons but she has played and practiced with the team through two spring camps. She knows what’s going on and what needs to be done in the center of the defense.
To this foundation will be an incoming class of 12 freshmen that Walker is excited to have join the team.
“We believe there is enough versatility in our freshmen class to fill the holes that we identified in the spring,” Walker said. “This is a very athletic group of freshmen. I feel it is a class that represents my philosophies of working hard, wanting to improve and taking ownership of your own improvement.”
Coming Aug. 21: 2008 Season Preview, Part II