Buckeyes earn bye, open tournament in semifinal game at noon (CT) Friday live on the Big Ten Network

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After clinching a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship, the fifth-ranked Ohio State field hockey team heads to the 2010 Big Ten Tournament this weekend in Evanston, Ill., as the No. 1 seed.

With the top seed, the Buckeyes (15-3, 5-1 Big Ten) receive a bye into the first semifinal game at noon (CT) Friday and will face the winner of the first-round game between No. 4-seed  Michigan State and No. 5-seed Northwestern. Both semifinals Friday and the championship game Sunday will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.

The Buckeyes earned Big Ten regular season co-champions with Michigan after defeating Iowa, 3-0, last Saturday in Iowa City. Ohio State and the Wolverines finished the year tied at the top of the standings with 5-1 records.

The Buckeyes previously won the conference regular season championship two times (co-2001 and 2006). All three titles have come under the direction of head coach Anne Wilkinson, in her 15th season at Ohio State.

Ohio State tied Michigan at 5-1 in conference play, but the Buckeyes won the tiebreaker with a 2-1 victory over the Wolverines Oct. 22 to earn the No. 1 seed. Ohio State downed Iowa, 3-0, last Saturday to clinch its third regular-season title in program history. Michigan also clinched a share of the Big Ten title the same day with a 5-2 victory over Indiana.

Hosted by Northwestern, the tournament opens with three first-round games Thursday. Defending Big Ten champion Michigan State earned the No. 4 seed in the tournament and will face No. 5-seed Northwestern in the tournament’s opening game at 10 a.m. CT.
The second-seeded Wolverines will then play No. 7-seed Iowa at approximately 12:15 p.m. CT. Rounding out the field, Indiana is the No. 6 seed and will take on No. 3-seed Penn State at approximately 2:30 p.m. CT.

The semifinal games are set for noon and 2 p.m. CT Friday, while the championship game will be at 2 p.m. CT Sunday. The semifinal and championship games will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

Ohio State has a 15-15 all-time record at the Big Ten Tournament, and is 13-13 at the event under the direction of Anne Wilkinson. Ohio State has won the tournament once in 2001. The Scarlet and Gray have appeared in the championship game twice in program history (2001, 2008).

Last year, Ohio State fell, 2-1, to Penn State in the first round Nov. 5 in East Lansing, Mich. In 2008, the team advanced to the championship game before losing 2-1 in overtime to Iowa Nov. 9 in Bloomington, Ind.

Junior co-captain Aisling Coyle leads the Buckeyes with 48 points and 21 goals, while sophomore forward Berta Queralt has 43 points on 10 goals and a league-high and OSU-record 23 assists. Senior midfielder Aisling McKeon is third with 27 points and has 19 assists. Senior forward Jena Cacciatore is second on the team in goals with 11 and has 24 points overall.

As a team, Ohio State has had a second-half surge in games with 159-56 shot advantage, 92-27 penalty corner advantage and 31-11 goal advantage in the final 35 minutes. Overall, the Buckeyes have a 293-133 margin in shots this season and a 151-66 lead in penalty corners, while outscoring opponents 62-21.

Ohio State has been one of the top teams on the road in 2010. The Buckeyes are 9-1 away from Columbus with key wins over nationally ranked opponents, including Louisville (Sept.  8), Duke (Sept. 18), Wake Forest (Sept. 19) and Michigan (Oct. 22). Their only loss was in a neutral-site game against third-ranked Virginia, 4-2, Sept. 11.

On the road, Ohio State has outscored its opponents, 29-14 with a 135-77 advantage on shots and an 86-41 advantage on penalty corners. The Buckeyes are the only team in Division I with an undefeated road record at 8-0 and are 1-1 in neutral-site games.

Ohio State remained at No. 5 in the Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I Poll released Tuesday by the National Field Hockey Coaches Association. Five Big Ten programs received votes in the ninth 2010 regular-season standings with Ohio State leading followed by eighth-ranked Penn State, No. 10 Michigan State and No. 11 Michigan.

The ranking is the highest Ohio State has been since 2006. The Buckeyes finished No. 5 in the country that season after going 14-5 overall and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Ohio State started 2010 at No. 14, climbed steadily in eight weeks and has stayed in the Top 10 for the last seven weeks.   The Buckeyes are seventh in the nation in RPI, which leads all Big Ten schools.

Ohio State is on a nine-game win streak heading into the Big Ten tournament this weekend. During that span, the Buckeyes have picked up wins against three Top 15 Big Ten opponents, including Michigan State, 5-1 (Oct. 15), Penn State, 3-0 (Oct. 17) and Michigan, 2-1 (Oct. 22).

  • Outscored opponents 39-4
  • Limited opponents to 5.2 shots per game
  • Has a 65-22 advantage on penalty corners
  • Has led for all 630 minutes of competition
  • Team has combined for 118 total points (13.1 per game)

Three Buckeyes are among the best in the nation in offensive categories (as of Oct. 31). Berta Queralt is third in assists per game (1.22), while Aisling McKeon is sixth (1.06). Aisling Coyle is sixth in the nation in goals per game (1.17) and seventh in points per game (2.67). Jenn Sciulli is seventh in defensive saves with six. Goalkeeper Ally Tunitis has a 1.15 goals against average, which is ninth in the country.

As a team, Ohio State is third in assists per game (3.44), fourth in points per game (10.33), fourth in winning percentage (.833), seventh in goals per game (3.44) and eighth in scoring average (3.34), goals against average (1.13) and scoring margin (2.21).

Jenn Sciulli received her third Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award of the year Monday after help leading the Buckeyes to wins over Ball State, 5-0, Oct. 27 and at Iowa, 3-0, Oct. 30. The Palmyra, Pa., native also earned the honor Oct. 4 and Oct. 18.

Sciulli guided the Buckeye backfield to the team’s fifth and sixth shutouts of the season. Against Ball State, the Ohio State defense limited the Cardinals to two shots and did not allow a penalty corner. At Iowa, Sciulli helped limit the Hawkeyes to eight shots in 70 minutes of competition.

During the Buckeyes’ current nine-game win streak, the backfield has allowed only four goals and has limited opponents to 5.2 shots per game. Sciulli leads the conference in defensive saves this year with six. She has also continued her streak of starting every career game with 59 starts.

Ohio State shutout Iowa, 3-0, last Saturday in the in Iowa City to clinch a share of the Big Ten regular-season title. The Buckeyes were led by Berta Queralt and Jena Cacciatore who each recorded a goal and an assist. Danica Deckard got Ohio State an early 1-0 lead with a goal at 12:51 into the first half. Ally Tunitis made four saves for the shutout.

The Wildcats lead the all-time series 27-24-1 vs. the Buckeyes. Northwestern gave Ohio State its lone conference loss this season in Columbus, defeating Ohio State, 3-2, Sept. 24 at Buckeye Varsity Field. The Buckeyes have won four of the last five meetings.

The Last Five Meetings:
Sept. 24, 2010 – Northwestern 3, Ohio State 2
Oct. 31, 2009 – Ohio State 2, Northwestern 1
Oct. 24, 2008 – Ohio State 6, Northwestern 0
Oct. 19, 2007 – Ohio State 3, Northwestern 0
Oct. 15, 2006 – Ohio State 4, Northwestern 0

The Buckeyes are 35-18-3 all-time vs. the Spartans. Last time out, Ohio State posted a 5-1 victory over Michigan State Oct. 15 in Columbus. Danica Deckard scored twice in that game and Berta Queralt had three assists.

The Last Five Meetings:
Oct. 15, 2010 – Ohio State 5, Michigan State 1
Oct. 23, 2009 – Michigan State 2, Ohio State 1
Sept. 26, 2008 – Michigan State 3, Ohio State 1
Oct. 7, 2007 – Michigan State 4, Ohio State 2
Oct. 28, 2006 – Ohio State 4, Michigan State 3 (2OT)

Several Buckeyes rank among the top 3 in various Big Ten categories (as of Nov. 1). Aisling Coyle is second in the conference in points (48), points per game (2.67) and goals (21). Berta Queralt is first in the league in assists with 23 and third in points (43). Aisling McKeon is second in assists (19).

Defensively, Jenn Sciulli leads the Big Ten in defensive saves with six, while goalkeeper Ally Tunitis is tied for first in shutouts with six and leads the conference in goals against average with a 1.15.

As a team, Ohio State is first in several statistics, including scoring margin (2.21), scoring average (3.34), goals against average (1.13), goals scored (62), goals scored per game (3.44), goals allowed (21), goals allowed per game (1.17), assists (64), assists per game (3.56) and penalty corners (151).

Berta Queralt has adjusted to the double and triple teams opposing defenses and in the last nine games, the All-American has totaled 31 points with nine goals and 13 assists. Queralt has had at least five points in four games during the stretch in an 8-0 win vs. Robert Morris (Sept. 29) and 5-1 victories over Miami (Oct. 7) and Michigan State (Oct. 15). She posted six points against Ball State (Oct. 27) in the Buckeyes’ regular-season home finale.

The native of Barcelona, Spain, had multiple goals vs. Robert Morris, Miami and Ball State and multiple assists against Indiana, Michigan State, UC Davis and Ball State. Queralt helped clinch the team’s conference regular-season title, with a goal and an assist at Iowa in the 3-0 victory last Saturday.

Berta Queralt has accomplished something no Buckeye before her has done. Her 23 assists this season is a program record, breaking the previous mark set by Mieke van Ulden (1994-97) who recorded 20 assists during in 1996. Queralt stands third on the career assists record with 35, tied with Yesenia Luces (2004-07).

Jenn Sciulli leads the conference in defensive saves this year with six. The back from Palmyra, Pa., has 12 in her career, which is tied for fifth with Tracey Senich (1993-96) and Traci Massielo (1990-93) on the Ohio State’s all-time list.

Aisling Coyle is having a big year offensively in her third season at Ohio State. After tallying her second-career hat trick against UC Davis Oct. 23, the junior midfielder continues to lead the team in goals (21) and points (48), both career highs. Her 21 goals are more than the previous two years combined after recording five in 2008 and six in 2009. The co-captain from Glasgow, Scotland, has scored in 14 of 18 games this season and has been held without a point just twice.

Coyle is only the third Buckeye this decade to cap the 20-goal mark along with Linda Haussener (20 in 2008) and Vanessa Immordino (22 in 2002). With two more points to her credit, she will become just the fourth Buckeye to have at 50 or more points in a season.

Danica Deckard is one of the key factors for the Buckeyes’ nine-game winning streak. During the stretch, the sophomore forward has 15 points on seven goals and an assist. Her eight goals, one assist and 17 points are all career-highs.

Sophomore forward Berta Queralt and senior midfielder Aisling McKeon have played major roles in the Buckeye offense. The two have combined for 42 of Ohio State’s 64 assists while playing key roles on the OSU penalty corner unit. Queralt’s 23 and McKeon’s 19 assists are both career-highs. 

In the last nine games, the Buckeye defense has allowed just four goals. Led by senior Bri Doak, juniors Jenn Sciulli, Aisling Coyle and freshman Nora Murer, Ohio State’s defense has only allowed an average of 1.16 goals and 7.39 shots per game this year. 

Ohio State denied Ohio a shot in the final 42:22 minutes of the 2-1 (OT) win (Aug. 31) in the season opener. The Buckeyes outshot Kent State, 16-0, Sept. 5 and outshot Robert Morris, 34-0, Sept. 29. On the Big Ten Network, the Scarlet and Gray limited Indiana to just four shots Oct. 2.

The Buckeyes limited both Michigan (Oct. 22) and Michigan State (Oct. 15) to eight shots, while only allowing Penn State to four shots Oct. 17 in Columbus. Last week, Ohio State held Ball State to just two shots and did not allow a penalty corner the entire 70 minutes of play.

Junior goalkeeper Ally Tunitis is tied for the league-lead in shutouts with six this season. In conference play, the Macungie, Pa., native leads the Big Ten with a 1.00 goals against average in 420:00 of total action. Tunitis made two saves in the back-to-back wins over Penn State, 3-0, Oct. 17 and Michigan, 2-1, Oct. 22 and had four saves in the 3-0 shutout of Iowa in the final game of the regular-season Oct. 30.

With 15 wins to her credit, Tunitis is tied for Ohio State’s season record, joining Lindsay Quintiliani, Lindsay Williams and Allison Blanton (since 1985).

Buckeyes Paula Pastor-Pitarque and Nora Murer have shaken off any rookie jitters. Pastor-Pitarque, a native of Barcelona, Spain, has 19 points on six goals and seven assists, while Murer, from Luzern, Switzerland, has a pair of assists. Pastor-Pitarque has earned two Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards, while Murer has played all but 40 minutes of the season in the backfield.

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Ohio State awaits the announcement of the 2010 NCAA Tournament field. The Division I field hockey tournament selection show will be streamed on beginning at 8 p.m. on Nov. 9. A link to the show will be available on the front page of on that evening.