Same players. Different look.
Coach Anne Wilkinson’s inaugural recruiting class of 1997 has enjoyed its share of success at Ohio State – they have already totaled 35 wins as a group.
But the four seniors have their sights set on the biggest prize of all – the Big Ten Championship. The foursome have taken it upon themselves to ensure that they and their teammates do everything in their power to claim the title in their final campaign in scarlet and gray.
After strong spring practice sessions, many team members opted to stay in Columbus during the summer rather than return home so they could focus on the upcoming season.
“My expectations and the team’s expectations are very high,” Wilkinson said. “They want to win. This group of seniors has very strong leaders. They’ve been through a lot.
“What is nice is that a lot of them have been able to stay here and play on the turf and do the training this summer. That shows commitment to me. We really stepped up our offseason training and worked on many of the components I felt we needed help with. I think we have a completely different team – same players, different look.”
Of course, hard work and dedication will only take a team so far. There also must be talent and experience.
OSU has plenty of both.
The OSU defense returns seniors Aubrey Stock (Seven Valleys, Pa.) and Stacey Rago (Lancaster, N.Y.), as well as junior Kim Reedy (Scarborough, Ontario) in the backfield. Stock led the Buckeyes in defensive saves last season with nine and is expected fill a leadership role in her final season.
“Aubrey Stock is going to be a very strong leader out of the backfield,” Wilkinson said. “She has a very imposing and commanding field presence. She meets all challenges head on and used her size and strength to her advantage. We will be looking to match her up against our opponents best offensive player.”
Reedy is OSU’s designated stopper on the corner and has the ability to inspire her teammates with her approach and physical play.
“Reedy is a very vocal leader and can recognize when to step up and dictate the tempo of a game,” Wilkinson said. “She is someone that a lot of her teammates look to for momentum. She uses her physicality on the field to show who’s in charge. She can step up and be in control of the game. She is dangerous in transition and plays a very important role in both the offensive and defensive corners.”
Also expected to contribute in the backfield is seasoned freshman Mariana Solorzano (Caracas, Venezuela), who has already proven herself at the national level, with experience in the Pan-American tournament.
“Mariana is on the Venezuelan under-21 national team,” Wilkinson said. “She’s very strong and has competed in international matches. She’ll be in a new position coming in, but she’s not necessarily a freshman on the field. She will make an immediate impact with her versatile style.”
With seniors Katie Hobson (Norristown, Pa.) and Haley Fox (Foxboro, Mass.), along with juniors Diana Kuser (Barto, Pa.) and Marije van Nouhuys (New Lyceum, Netherlands) leading the way, OSU will feature a fast paced offense that will constantly attack the goal.
“Our strength is up the middle,” Wilkinson said. “We have a lot of talent and experience there.”
Hobson led OSU with 14 goals and 33 points last season, which earned her third-team AstroTurf/NFHCA All-America honors as well as being named a first-team West Region All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten selection.
“Hobson makes a huge impact both offensively and defensively,” Wilkinson said. “She has the ability to play for a full 70 minutes. Her continuous hustle can break any opponents attack as well as generate offense. Her experience, vision, great stick skills and great goal scorer’s instinct make her a dangerous opponent for anyone.”
Van Nouhuys, also a first team West Region All-America selection, was second on the team in shots (40) and tied for third in points with 18. As one of the fastest players in the conference, she has the ability to take over a game when she has the ball.
“Marije van Nouhuys is a lethal and explosive weapon,” Wilkinson said. “When she gets the ball, everyone freezes. She can freeze opponents because she’s just so fast with the ball. She is a player that other teams will fear.”
Fox’s combination of field vision and quickness make her a valuable setup artist that can put the Buckeyes in position to score.
“She has tremendous speed and can see everything on the field,” Wilkinson said. “She’s able to setup her teammates. She will create plenty of scoring opportunities and attacking runs for our team.”
Kuser, a second-team West Region All-America last year, led the team in assists (7) and added three goals for 13 points. She will be counted on at forward. Camille Butcher, a redshirt freshman, (Simi Valley, Calif.) will see action at the wing position.
“She’s a speedy right-wing type,” Wilkinson said. “We’re looking forward to utilizing her speed.”
A pair of freshmen from the Garden State are also expected to contribute in their first season in the collegiate ranks. Vanessa Immordino (Roseland, N.J.) and Jenee Doto (Ocean City, N.J.) won’t be in Columbus long before they are playing.
“Immordino is a finesse player who has natural vision and could become a key playmaker,” Wilkinson said. “She has a knack of scoring goals at key times.” Doto also has a chance to play immediately.
“She was an exciting high school star with the raw ability to make a big impact at the collegiate level,” Wilkinson said.
Between The Pipes
Junior Allison Blanton (Newton, N.J) saw action in six games last season, including four starts. While she doesn’t have much experience, Wilkinson thinks Blanton’s attitude off the field will translate to success between the pipes.
“Last season Allison stepped in when necessary and did an outstanding job,” Wilkinson said. “She has proven that she is worthy of a starting position.
“She’s a really strong leader off the field, and, to me, that shows she can be a strong leader on the field,” Wilkinson said. “Her communication is excellent. She gets a lot from her team. We’re excited to see what she can do back there.”
OSU opens the season at home against Miami (O.) and Southwest Missouri but the Buckeyes then pack their bags and hit the road with their destination being some of the top programs in the country. It is a tall challenge, but the timing couldn’t be better for the Buckeyes.
“We are very excited to get together in September for our major road trip without the pressure of school,” Wilkinson said. “That should really help us. We will get a feel of how good we are at the Big Ten/ACC challenge and from the games against James Madison, Virginia, and Connecticut. All of those teams were ranked in the Top 10 and made the NCAA tournament last season. As always, the Big Ten will be tougher than ever with every team being able to win at anytime.”