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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State women’s soccer season begins with an exhibition match against Kentucky Aug. 14, followed by the 2010 season opener Aug. 20 against Wisconsin-Milwaukee at home in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Lori Walker, the 2009 Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year now in her 14th season at the helm of the Buckeyes, will welcome 20 returning players and seven incoming freshmen in an effort to build upon a strong 2009 campaign.

THE 2010 SCHEDULE

The 2010 schedule includes nine teams that made the 2009 NCAA tournament, including non-conference foes Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Marquette, West Virginia, Dayton and Arizona State and Big Ten opponents Penn State, Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State. After finishing third in the Big Ten regular season last year, Wisconsin advanced to the Round of 16 before falling to Boston College.

A game at Pittsburgh, who defeated the Buckeyes 2-1 in Columbus last season, a pair of games at home against Akron and Cleveland State and a matchup at Arizona round out the non-conference schedule.

A positive for Ohio State is that, unlike last year when three of the five game against ranked opponents were played on the road, six of the nine games against 2009 NCAA tournament participants will be at home.

“What I like about our schedule, and the Big Ten slate in particular, is that we get many of the top teams at home this year,” Walker, who has led five Ohio State teams into the NCAA tournament, said. “having Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State at home this season should really be a benefit to us.”

For the second consecutive season, the Buckeyes will open Big Ten play against Michigan, this time in Ann Arbor Sept. 26 before returning home to face defending Big Ten champion Penn State Oct. 3. Ohio State will then travel to Iowa Oct. 8 and Northwestern Oct. 10 before returning to Columbus to take on Wisconsin, Minnesota and Illinois the following week.

The Buckeyes finish up the road schedule at Purdue (Oct. 24) and Indiana (Oct. 31) before the regular season finale against Michigan State Friday Nov. 5 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

“Both the Penn State and Michigan State games were tough losses that came down to the wire for us last year,” Walker added. “To compete for the Big Ten championship again it is important to not count anybody out in this conference.”

GROWING UP

The Buckeyes have a combined 371 career starts between 14 upperclassmen, an important statistic for a team that graduated a pair of All-Big Ten performers and four-year starters in Ashley Bowyer and Lauren Robertson. After learning the ropes in their first few seasons, this group looks to take more of a leadership role.

“I feel really good about our leadership. We have had a couple of previous years where we have been bottom-heavy with youth and I think we are at a place now where that’s evened itself out,” Walker said. “That being said, we have some excellent leadership in both our junior and senior class. When that happens, there is usually a really good link between the staff and players.”

In 2009, the Buckeyes finished second in the Big Ten Conference marking their best finish and their 14-3-2 regular-season record marked the best in school history. The seven wins Ohio State posted in Big Ten play were a program best and the four total losses tied for the fewest in school history. The Buckeyes gave up just 13 goals, four fewer than any other season and were 4-0-1 against ranked opponents.

All of that came while five Buckeyes were named Big Ten Distinguished Scholars, earning a grade-point average of 3.7 or higher, three were named Scholar All-East Region selections and 14 received Academic All-Big Ten honors.

A look at those who will be counted on to lead the 2010 Buckeyes, beginning with the three captains:

Lauren Beachy will be in her first season as an Ohio State captain. The defender has played in 63 career games, starting 62, and has assisted on 13 Buckeye goals. When needed, “Beach” can move up into the midfield spot to provide a spark as she has an outstanding work rate and is very good on the ball.

Cassie Dickerson will captain the team for her third consecutive season. After recovering from multiple knee injuries, she started 19 games as a central defender last season en route to first team All-Big Ten and All-Great Lakes Region honors, scoring her first career goal (a game-winner at Southern Cal) and adding a pair of assists. Dickerson is very confident on the ball and also excellent in the air.

Danielle Scoliere, one of the fastest players on the team, will be a team captain for the first time. A starter of 32 career games, Scoliere can play as a center back, outside right or even move up to the midfield.

Genna Brand brings quality experience and versatility, contributing wherever the team needs her. She is a very technical player that can play wide in the back, in the midfield or even up top as a forward. In 50 games, she has scored five goals and recorded three assists.

Courtney Jenkins, despite being a smaller defensive midfielder, is excellent and fearless in the air while providing great leadership and is a true student of the game. She has played in 60 career games, starting 56, while netting seven goals and dishing out three assists.

After moving to the midfield last season, Lauren Steuer proved to be one of the best left midfielders in the conference, earning second team All-Big Ten honors. A starter of 62 career games, “Steuey” is one of the most fit players in Ohio State history and provides a deadly left foot.

After backing up Lauren Robertson the past two seasons, Katie Baumgardner will battle for the starting goalkeeper role in 2010. She has improved footwork and is looking to step forward and put her stamp on the game.

A two-year starter on the back line, Colleen Brady scored a pair of goals, one a game-winner in the 92nd minute against Purdue, and added three assists last season. She has displayed an ability to organize the back line and is excellent in the air.

Lauren Cusick has played in 14 career games on the Ohio State back line. She adds quality depth, is solid technically and provides a laid-back and fun attitude to the team.

Caitlyn Martin has started 24 career games, recording seven assists and will look to get the so-called “monkey off her back” and find the back of the net as she has created many quality chances without a goal in her first two seasons. She can play in the midfield but is also one of the Buckeyes’ best back to pressure forwards.

Paige Maxwell has played in 40 career games, starting 24, and has scored more goals (14) than any other Buckeye the last two seasons. She has excellent size and strength but also has a great ability to finish.

Taylor Moront has played in 31 games, scoring six goals. One of the fastest players on the team, Moront also possesses great size and can be a handful for opposing defenders.

Liz Sullivan spent most of 2009 battling back from a knee injury but still played in all 20 matches. She can play centrally or wide on the back line, has tremendous pace and also tackles extremely hard.

Brooke Taylor brings quality depth and attitude to the Buckeye midfield. A veteran of 21 career games, Taylor provides great creativity and aggressiveness and is an extremely hard worker.

Lauren Amyx played in five games while battling injuries as a freshman in 2009. She adds speed, versatility and depth to either the midfield or forward spot.

Tiffany Cameron played in 19 games, starting all but one, in her freshman season. Named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team, she can play outside midfield and as a forward because of her ability to get behind the defense.

Lauren Granberg tied for the team lead with six goals, playing in all 20 games as a freshman. She possesses excellent speed and height and has the ability to find the back of the net in a multitude of ways.

Jessie Greenberg is a great role goalkeeper that provides solid depth. She is a hard worker that is always looking to make herself and her teammates better.

Kendyl Reed played in 18 games as a freshman, scoring a goal and dishing out a pair of assists. She has come a long way in her understanding of the game and takes whatever information given to her, absorbs it and puts it to use on the field.

Karin Sendel played much faster and with a lot more confidence toward the end of last season. The coaches expect more of the same this season after Sendel scored a goal and recorded two assists in 2009.

Kellen Shields looks for her first action in an Ohio State uniform after she redshirted last year because of a summer knee injury. She is a good back-to-goal player the combines with others very well.

Aly Walker played in 16 games on the back line as a freshman last season. One of the toughest and most physical players in the program, Aly has worked hard to improve the technical part of her game.

JOINING THE PARTY

Seven freshmen – three midfielders, three defenders and a goalkeeper – will enter camp with the Buckeyes this fall. Six states – Ohio, Iowa, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Indiana – and Canada are represented in the 2010 group of Ohio State newcomers.

Maria Deliberato, Kristen Niederhaus and Danica Wu are forwards; Megan Fuller, Samantha Lewis and Adrienne Poe-Hinton are defenders and Rachel Middleman is a goalkeeper.

The ability of this versatile and talented group of freshmen to gel with the core group of upperclassmen returning from a record-setting 2009 squad will determine whether the Buckeyes can return to the top of the Big Ten and, perhaps, make a run in the NCAA tournament.