Buckeyes (18-4) earn first Final Four bid in program history

COLUMBUS, Ohio – From seven yards out, junior co-captain Aisling Coyle punched the Buckeyes’ ticket to its first NCAA Final Four in program history as the seventh-ranked Ohio State field hockey team defeated No. 4 Syracuse, 3-2, in overtime Sunday at Penn State’s Field Hockey Complex in State College, Pa.

Coyle, a midfielder from Glasgow, Scotland, sealed the victory with a goal off a penalty stroke at 76:08 with a quick shot to the back right corner of the cage. It was her second goal of the afternoon after scoring the game-tying goal with 12 minutes left in the second half.

Ohio State will now play top-seed Maryland at 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. ET (time to be confirmed) Nov. 19 in the NCAA semifinals in College Park, Md.

With the win, Ohio State (18-4, 5-1 Big Ten) also broke the program’s single-season wins mark with 18 victories.

“It was so exciting for me to coach this team every minute out there today,” head coach Anne Wilkinson said. “It was difficult. We got out to an early lead and Syracuse fought back. They are so strong of a team, but we were able to keep our composure.

“Our defense was relentless today and it showed our true character of the players on this team. We earned the penalty stroke and Coyle was able to put it away. This is unbelievable. It’s just awesome for this whole group to earn a Final Four spot after all the hard work they’ve put in this year.”

Coyle led the Buckeyes with two goals, while sophomore Danica Deckard scored the first goal of the game. Freshman Paula Pastor-Pitarque, who led the Buckeyes Saturday with the gamewinner in overtime, recorded an assist.

In the second half, Syracuse went ahead, 2-1, at 42:21 on a penalty stroke by Martina Loncarica. The Orange earned the penalty stroke following a breakaway by forward Lindsey Conrad. However, Ohio State did not lose its composure with Coyle leading the charge.

The 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Coyle tied the game at 2-all following a penalty corner with the assist from Pastor-Pitarque. The 2010 Freshman of the Year, Pastor-Pitarque sent a cross pass from the right side to set up Coyle on the left, who finished with a goal pass Syracuse keeper Leann Stiver.

The Orange had two penalty corners with under a minute in regulation, but the Buckeye defense held its own, sending the game into overtime. Ohio State was inches away from ending the game when junior back Jenn Sciulli fired a through ball from midfield to inside the circle where senior forward Jena Cacciatore sent a deflection off the left post of the  cage.

Three minutes later, the Buckeyes drove down the field and Cacciatore was able to work her way inside the circle to the right side of the cage to draw the penalty stroke after a Syracuse foul to set up the win.

In the first half, Deckard got the Buckeyes off to quick start with an unassisted goal at 7:13 from five yards out when her shot passed through the legs of Stiver in front of the cage for the early 1-0 Ohio State lead.

The Orange began to press the ball offensively in the later stages of the first half. Buckeye goalkeeper Ally Tunitis made a save after a penalty corner by Syracuse from the right side.

The following play, Ohio State earned its first penalty corner of the afternoon on a counterattack at 28:57. Coyle fired a shot on goal from the middle of the circle but Stiver was there to deny it with a diving stick save to hold the Buckeye lead to a goal.

Soon after, Syracuse tied the game, 1-1, at 30:55 following a penalty corner when Iona Holloway scored from the right side off a rebound.

Tunitis had a solid day between the posts for the Buckeyes recording six saves vs. Syracuse, tying her season-high, and improves to 18-4 on the season.

Game Notes:

  • Aisling Coyle now has 55 points on 24 goals and seven assists this season and has scored a goal in 17 of the Buckeyes’ 22 games. She has also converted four penalty strokes in 2010.
  • Senior back Bri Doak, who broke the program’s career starts record vs. Albany, tied the Ohio State career games played record with 81 first set by Curlyne Wynn from 2003-06.