Buckeyes face nine of the nation’s Top 20 teams in 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State field hockey team enters the 2009 season ranked 18th in the Kookaburra/NFHCA Division I Preseason Poll, the National Field Hockey Coaches Association announced Tuesday. Maryland enters the year ranked No. 1 with 24 first-place votes after winning the national title a season ago.

All seven Big Ten program received votes in the 2009 preseason poll with Michigan State leading the way in eighth. Defending league tournament champion Iowa follows in ninth, Penn State sits in the No. 11 spot and the Buckeyes are 18th. Michigan also cracked the nation’s Top 20, holding the 19th spot while Northwestern and Indiana received votes.

The first regular-season poll will be released Sept. 8. At that point, Ohio State will have four games under its belt, including against No.12-ranked James Madison in the team’s season home opener at 1 p.m. Saturday and vs. No. 3 Syracuse on the road Sept. 4. Following the matchup vs. the Orange, the Buckeyes face No. 7 Princeton at a neutral site Sept. 5 in Syracuse, N.Y.

In all, nine of Ohio State’s 2009 opponents made the Top 20 preseason poll and five rank in the Top 10.

Head coach Anne Wilkinson, who is in her 14th season at the helm in Columbus and her 22nd season overall, enters 2009 with nine starters returning from a team that won six of their last seven games.

Action kicks off this weekend in Columbus as the Buckeyes welcome James Madison and Saint Louis to North Turf Field at 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, respectively.