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Ohio State faces James Madison 1 p.m. Saturday, Saint Louis 1 p.m. Sunday

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Head coach Anne Wilkinson and the 2009 Ohio State field hockey team open the program’s 39th season this weekend vs. James Madison at 1 p.m. Saturday and against Saint Louis at 1 p.m. Sunday at North Turf Field.

Wilkinson, who in entering her 14th season at the helm of the Buckeyes, will field a team comprised of 16 returning letterwinners, including nine starters, and welcomes five newcomers to the squad in 2009.

This season, Ohio State will look to continue building upon last season when the Buckeyes had a 14-7 season and were runner-ups  at the Big Ten Tournament.

STAY IN THE LOOP
Live scoring for both Ohio State contests will be available on the official Ohio State athletics Web site, OhioStateBuckeyes.com. A link to the “GameWatcher” with live stats is on the Buckeye field hockey schedule page.

THE FUN STUFF
The first 100 fans at the Ohio State-James Madison game Saturday will receive a complimentary 2009 Ohio State field hockey poster at the gate. Please do not be shy, markers will be on hand for an impromptu autograph session with the Buckeyes following the game.

Schedule cards for all Ohio State fall intercollegiate teams also will be available at the promotional table at both contests this weekend.

OHIO STATE ON THE RETURN
Returning starters for the Scarlet and Gray in 2009 are forwards Jena Cacciatore and Melissa Palm, midfielders Aisling Coyle and Aisling McKeon, as well as backs Natalia Ciminello, Bri Doak, Rachel Hunter and Jenn Sciulli.

A boost of healthy competition for the starting goalkeeper position will help strengthen Ohio State in the net. After splitting time between senior Lindsay Quintiliani, junior Ali Ristas and sophomore Ally Tunitis a season ago, the Buckeyes will look to draw on each goalie’s strength as the season progresses.

LEADING THE BUCKEYES
By verdict of a team vote, senior goalkeeper Lindsay Quintiliani and sophomore midfielder Aisling Coyle were named captains of the 2009 Ohio State field hockey team.

In the net, Quintiliani has started 48 of 49 career games, playing a career 3338:02 minutes for the Buckeyes. In 2006, the Mountain Top, Pa., native recorded five shutouts as the Buckeyes went 15-4. That season, Ohio State won the Big Ten regular-season title and notched the program’s first win in the NCAA tournament, downing California, 3-1, in Durham, N.C. Overall, the two-time Buckeye Spirit Award winner owns a 28-20 record and ranks fifth in the Ohio State career records with nine shutouts.

Coyle, a native of Glasgow, Scotland, is a third-year sophomore after sitting out the 2007 season because of an injury. A leader on the field, Coyle made an immediate impact in 2008, starting all 21 games and finishing the season ranked third on the team with 17 points and second with seven assists. A NFHCA Second Team All-West Region and All-Big Ten honoree, she also earned selection to the Big Ten All-Tournament team a season ago.

THE SCOOP ON JMU
James Madison is one of eight teams Ohio State will face in 2009 that advanced to the NCAA tournament last season. The 2008 squad posted an 18-3 overall record, including an 8-0 conference ledger en route to winning its second-consecutive Colonial Athletic Association title.

The Ohio State season opener vs. James Madison Saturday will mark the first time the two teams have met since the 2000 season when the Dukes posted a 4-2 victory over the Buckeyes in Columbus (Sept. 9). In 1999, the Scarlet and Gray dealt JMU a 4-3 loss on its home turf.

Head coach Antoinette Lucas is in her sixth season with the Dukes and owns a 67-40 career record. The Buckeyes and Dukes have met 11 times with JMU leading the series record 7-3-1.

TAKING ON THE BILLIKENS
Ohio State welcomes Saint Louis back to Columbus in 2009, leading the series record, 7-1-2. The Buckeyes and Billikens last met in 2007, a 6-1 Ohio State victory at North Turf Field.

Saint Louis head coach Lauren Bruce is in her first year with the squad after serving as an assistant coach at SLU for the past three seasons. Bruce is a 2005 graduate of New Hampshire.

In 2008, the Billikens went 4-13 overall and were winless in the Atlantic-10 Conference.

DUDE, WHERE’S MY CAR?
In 2009, all Ohio State field hockey fans and visiting teams will be directed to park by the Jack Nicklaus Museum in the Nos. 3, 4 and 5 Scarlet Lots and enter at the southwest end of the North Turf Field when attending home contests.

Parking and entrance to the Buckeyes’ 10 home games are free of charge in 2009.

FRESH FACES
Ohio State welcomes five student-athletes to the squad, including two Spain natives and one each from Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. Kelly Beam, Maria Briones, Danica Deckard and Berta Queralt will play on the forward line for the Buckeyes while Laura Napolitano will play in the backfield.

Kelly Beam is a forward from Louisville, Ky. At Kentucky Country Day School, Beam scored 22 goals and added 14 assists for the Bearcats and earned the 2008 Coaches Award while serving as the team captain.

Maria Briones is a sophomore forward from Barcelona, Spain. She was the leading scorer at the 2006 and 2007 First Regional League and Spanish Championship for the R.C. Polo club. She played in both the Under-18 and Under-16 national divisions in Spain.

Danica Deckard, a native of Selinsgrove, Pa., attended Selinsgrove High School where she was named the team’s best offensive player as a senior while serving as captain. Deckard was named the Daily Item Female Athlete of the Year.

Laura Napolitano is a Cincinnati native who attended St. Ursula Academy. The defender was a two-time captain and three-year starter on the field hockey team. She was the 2008 Cincinnati Enquirer Player of the Year.

Berta Queralt is a forward from Barcelona, Spain. She played with the Junior Hockey Club for over 10 years as a member of Spain’s Under-12, 14, 16 and 18 teams. Last July, she helped the U-18 team to a gold medal at the Euro Hockey Youth Championships in Madrid.

PRESEASON FUN!
Ohio State held two preseason tune-ups this summer. Most recently, the squad posted a 3-1 victory over Ohio University Aug. 22 in an exhibition game at North Turf Field. The Buckeyes jumped to an early lead as Aisling McKeon and Berta Queralt recorded two first half goals while Keegan Billick ended the scoring with a goal midway through the second half. In net for Ohio State was senior keeper Lindsay Quintiliani who played the complete game, making two saves and allowing one goal.

In the scrimmage, the Buckeyes outshot the Bobcats, 12-3, and held a 7-3 advantage in penalty corners. Queralt led Ohio State in scoring with three points with an assist on McKeon’s goal.

Previously, the squad had divided into two teams to simulate in-game action Aug. 14 with Scarlet posting a 5-0 victory over Gray at North Turf Field. Queralt led Scarlet with two goals and an assist for five points while classmate Danica Deckard posted four points on two goals and sophomore Maria Briones got on the board with a goal. Aisling Coyle also earned a point with an assist.

Ali Ristas played all 70 minutes in goal for Scarlet and Lindsay Quintiliani did the same for Gray, each recording eight saves in the scrimmage.

2008 – A LOOK BACK
Ohio State concluded its 2008 season with a 14-7 overall record, winning six of its last seven games. The Buckeyes, who finished 3-3 in the Big Ten, made a run through the Big Ten Tournament and sent two-time defending conference champ Iowa into overtime in the title game. To advance to that game, OSU upset top-seeded Penn State also in overtime in the semifinals.

In 2008, Ohio State shut out nine opponents, the most since 1979 when the Buckeyes blanked 11 teams. The Buckeye defense held opponents to an average of just 1.24 goals per game, 7.3 shots per game and 4.2 penalty corners per game. The squad ranked third in the NCAA in shutouts per game (0.43), 10th in goals-against average (1.18) and 13th in scoring margin (1.59) and penalty corners per game (8.38).

COVERGIRL
Senior Melissa Palm kick started a season-long weekly Q&A feature on the field hockey homepage on OhioStateBuckeyes.com Monday. Each week of the 2009 field hockey season check the university’s office athletics website for a new Q&A with a field hockey student-athlete. Click here to read Palm’s Q&A.

UP NEXT
The Buckeyes return to Columbus to face in-state foe Ohio University at 4 p.m. Sept. 11 after playing two games on the road in Syracuse, N.Y., Sept. 4-5. Ohio State will meet Syracuse at 3 p.m. Sept. 4 and will battle Princeton in a neutral site matchup at noon Sept. 5.

In addition, a Q&A with sophomore Aisling Coyle will be posted on OhioStateBuckeyes.com starting Monday, Aug. 31.