Seventh-ranked Buckeyes face top-seed and host Maryland in NCAA semifinal Friday

COLUMBUS, Ohio – After making program history last weekend in State College, Pa., the seventh-ranked Ohio State field hockey team heads to the 2010 NCAA Final Four to face No. 1-seed Maryland in the national semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Friday in College Park, Md.

The winner of the Ohio State/Maryland game will face the winner of the first semifinal between No. 2-seed North Carolina and No. 3-seed Virginia at noon Sunday in the 2010 NCAA national championship game. The Buckeyes (18-4) advanced to their first NCAA semifinal after claiming to overtime victories over Albany, 2-1, last Saturday and No. 4-seed Syracuse, 3-2, last Sunday at the Penn State Field Hockey Complex in NCAA first and second round action.

The University of Maryland will host the semifinals and final of the 2010 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championships in College Park, Md. No. 2-Seed North Carolina (21-2) faces No. 3-Seed Virginia (18-3) at 2 p.m. Friday followed by the Buckeyes (18-4) and top-seed Terrapins (21-1) at 4:30 p.m. The championship game will be held at noon Sunday.

All-session tickets include adult passes for $18, student/senior passes for $12, and group passes (20+) for $8. Single session adult tickets are $10, student/senior tickets are $7 and group (20+) will be sold for $5. Tickets may be purchased by visiting the Terrapin Ticket Office in the Comcast Center, visiting or by phone at 1-800-IMA-TERP.

Both semifinal games and the championship game will be streamed live on John Sadak will be calling the play-by-play with Karen Weaver providing commentary.

Ohio State earned an at-large bid into the national tournament after winning Big Ten regular-season title with Michigan with a matching 5-1 mark in conference play.

This is Ohio State’s sixth trip to NCAA tournament and fifth under head coach Anne Wilkinson. Ohio State made its first appearance at the NCAA tournament in 1994 but did not return again until 2001 with Wilkinson at the helm. The Buckeyes are 3-5 all-time in NCAA tournament games.

The 2010 campaign marks the second time in program history the Buckeyes have made back-to-back tournament after first doing so in 2005 and 2006. This season, the Buckeyes advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the second time in program history before moving on to their first NCAA semifinal appearance.

The Buckeyes advanced to the NCAA semifinals for the first time in program history after claiming two overtime victories last weekend at Penn State’s Field Hockey Complex in State College, Pa. Ohio State defeated Albany, 2-1, in overtime Nov. 13 and followed with a 3-2 overtime win over No. 4-seed Syracuse Nov. 14.

Down 1-0 in the final minutes of regulation against Albany, freshman Paula Pastor-Pitarque scored both goals for the Buckeyes. Her first goal came with less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation and she followed with the gamewinner in overtime.

In the second-round matchup vs. Syracuse, junior co-captain Aisling Coyle punched the Buckeyes’ ticket to the NCAA Final Four after converting 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.

The 18 wins by Ohio State this season is a program record. The previous high for victories was 17 in 1976. Head coach Anne Wilkinson has a winning record in 13 of 15 seasons and has led the Buckeyes to five of their six NCAA appearances all-time.

For the fifth-consecutive season, at least one Buckeye earned a player of the year award from the Big Ten as junior co-captain Aisling Coyle was named Defensive Player of the Year and Paula Pastor-Pitarque was named Freshman of the Year.

With their honors, Coyle and Pastor-Pitarque become the sixth and seventh Buckeyes to receive a major conference distinction, all under head coach Anne Wilkinson. Coyle is the first Buckeye in program history to win the top defensive honor, while Pastor-Pitarque is the third Buckeye to win the top rookie award. The two Big Ten Player of the Year awards ties the program record set in 2006. The five All-Big Ten selections ties the program high accomplished first in 2001 and again in 2005.

In addition, Coyle was a unanimous First Team All-Big Ten honoree along with sophomore Berta Queralt. Senior midfielder Aisling McKeon, junior back Jenn Sciulli and Pastor-Pitarque were named to the second-team. Senior back Bri Doak was Ohio State’s Sportsmanship Award honoree.

The Buckeyes were named Big Ten regular season co-champions with Michigan after defeating Iowa, 3-0, Oct. 30 in Iowa City. Ohio State and the Wolverines finished the year tied at the top of the standings with 5-1 records. Ohio State 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.

Junior co-captain Aisling Coyle leads the Buckeyes with 55 points and 24 goals, while sophomore forward Berta Queralt has 47 points on 10 goals and a league-high and OSU-record 27 assists. Senior midfielder Aisling McKeon is third with 28 points and has 20 assists. Senior forward Jena Cacciatore is second on the team in goals with 12 and has 26 points overall.

As a team, Ohio State has had a second-half surge in games with 168-70 shot advantage, 99-36 penalty corner advantage and 34-13 goal advantage in the final 35 minutes. Overall, the Buckeyes have a 330-170 margin in shots this season and a 167-87 lead in penalty corners, while outscoring opponents 70-26.

The Terrapins (21-1, 5-0 ACC) advanced to the NCAA semifinals after defeating Massachusetts, 4-2, Nov. 13 and Connecticut, 3-1, Nov. 14 in College Park, Md. Maryland claimed its third straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship and ninth overall after defeating North Carolina, 5-2, Nov. 7 in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Maryland has been ranked in the Top 2 nationally for the entire season and has held the top ranking since Oct. 23. It is on a 13-game win streak after suffering its lone loss of the 2010 campaign at Princeton, 2-1, in overtime Oct. 1.

The team is led by four-time ACC Offensive Player of the Year Katie O’Donnell, who leads the nation in points per game (4.18) and assists per game (1.55) and is third in goals per game (1.32). O’Donnell has tallied 92 points this year with 34 assists and 29 goals. First-Team All-ACC selection junior Jemma Buckley is second on the team in points with 54 with 22 goals and 10 assists, while Jill Witmer, the ACC Freshman of the Year, is third with 42 points on 17 goals and seven assists. Head coach Missy Meharg earned the ACC Coach of the Year honor for the sixth time and second straight season.

Maryland leads the all-time series, 5-0, vs. Ohio State. The two teams last faced each other during the 2007 season at the Terrapin Invitational Sept. 8 with a 4-1 final in favor of Maryland.

The Buckeyes are 2-1 this season against ACC opponents. Ohio State won 3-1 at Duke Sept. 18 and followed with a 3-2 overtime victory at Wake Forest. Sept. 19. The Buckeyes lone loss vs. an ACC school was vs. Virginia by score of 4-2 Sept. 11 during a neutral-site matchup in Norfolk, Va.

The Buckeyes, who earned the No. 1 seed, advanced to the championship game of the Big Ten tournament for the third time in program history after defeating Michigan State, 2-0, Nov. 5 in the semifinal game. However, Ohio State fell 2-1 to No. 2-seed Michigan in the championship final Nov. 7. Aisling Coyle and Paula Pastor-Pitarque were named to the Big Ten All-Tournament Team.

Ohio State has been one of the top teams on the road in 2010. The Buckeyes are 12-2 away from Columbus with key wins over nationally ranked opponents, including Louisville (Sept.  8), Duke (Sept. 18), Wake Forest (Sept. 19), Michigan (Oct. 22) and most recently Syracuse (Nov. 14). Their only two losses were in a neutral-site game against third-ranked Virginia, 4-2, Sept. 11 and No. 11 Michigan, 2-1, Nov. 7 in the Big Ten tournament championship game.

On the road, Ohio State has outscored its opponents, 37-19 with a 172-114 advantage on shots and a 102-62 advantage on penalty corners. The Buckeyes are the only team in Division I with an undefeated road record at 8-0 and are 4-2 in neutral-site games.

Three Buckeyes are among the best in the nation in offensive categories (as of Nov. 14). Berta Queralt is third in assists per game (1.23), while Aisling McKeon is seventh (0.91). Aisling Coyle is seventh in the nation in goals per game (1.09) and ninth in points per game (2.5). Jenn Sciulli is seventh in defensive saves with seven. Goalkeeper Ally Tunitis has a 1.16 goals against average, which is sixth in the country.

As a team, Ohio State is third in assists per game (3.23), fourth in winning percentage (0.818), sixth in points per game (9.59) and seventh in goals against average (1.14) and scoring margin (1.93).

Several Buckeyes rank among the top 3 in various Big Ten categories (as of Nov. 15). Aisling Coyle is tied for first in goals (24) and second in the conference in points (55), points per game (2.50) and goals per game (1.09). Berta Queralt is first in the league in assists with 27 and third in points (47). Aisling McKeon is second in assists (20).

Defensively, Jenn Sciulli leads the Big Ten in defensive saves with seven, while goalkeeper Ally Tunitis is first in shutouts with seven 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 (1.93), scoring average (3.07), shutouts (7), goals against average (1.14), goals scored (70), goals scored per game (3.18), goals allowed (26), goals allowed per game (1.18), assists (71) and assists per game (3.23).

Freshman Paula Pastor-Pitarque helped lead the Buckeyes to their first NCAA semifinal appearance after coming through in the clutch during the first and second rounds last weekend in State College, Pa. In the two overtime wins against Albany and Syracuse, the Barcelona, Spain, native had five points on two goals and an assist.

Down 1-0 vs. the Great Danes, Pastor-Pitarque scored twice for the Buckeyes, tallying her first goal with less than 2 minutes remaining in regulation and followed with the gamewinner in overtime. Down 1-0 with 1:30 remaining, Pastor-Pitarque answered for Ohio State with a shot from the right side of the circle for the goal with assists from junior co-captain Aisling Coyle and sophomore Berta Queralt to tie the game and sending it to overtime.

In extra time, both teams had multiple chances for the win. On a counterattack 8 minutes in, Albany pushed the ball through the Buckeye midfield with numbers. But Pastor-Pitarque did not give up on the play, running 80 yards back on defense to make a key defensive save in front of goal denying Albany a gamewinner.

Minutes later, she completed the comeback victory at 80:49 when she gained possession inside the circle and fired a shot into the right side of the cage for the unassisted goal.

The 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year continued her success vs. Syracuse with an assist on the Buckeyes’ second goal that tied the game at 2-all. Pastor-Pitarque sent a cross pass from the right side to set up Coyle on the left, who finished with a goal to the back of the cage. 

Aisling Coyle, the 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, is having a big season offensively as well in her third season at Ohio State. The junior midfielder continues to lead the team in goals (24) and points (55), both career highs.

Her goals this season 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 16 of 22 games this season and has been held without a point just three times.

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 her goal vs. Michigan State in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament Nov. 5, Coyle became just the fourth Buckeye to have at 50 or more points in a season.

Coyle’s game-winning goal in overtime against Syracuse in the NCAA second round put her to 55 points on the season, which has not been accomplished by a Buckeye since Britta Eickhoff record 67 during the 1996 campaign.

Senior co-captain Bri Doak broke Ohio State’s career starts record in the NCAA first round game vs. Albany Nov. 13 with 80 starts passing former Buckeye Kelly Terwilliger (2004-07) who had 79 career starts. A native of Selinsgrove, Pa., Doak has been a key component to the Buckeye backfield starting in every game since her freshman season and now has 81 career starts to her credit.

She will break the career games played record with 82 in the NCAA semifinal game vs.  Maryland passing Curlyne Wynn (2003-06) who had 81 games played.

Berta Queralt adjusted to the double and triple teams from opposing defenses this season. The sophomore All-American had three games with multiple goals and eight games with multiple assists. She was held without a point just three times and had six games with four or more points, including a six-point performance vs. Ball State (Oct. 27).

Berta Queralt has accomplished something no Buckeye before her has done. Her 27 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 39.

Sophomore forward Berta Queralt and senior midfielder Aisling McKeon have played major roles in the Buckeye offense. The two have combined for 47 of Ohio State’s 71 assists while playing key roles on the OSU penalty corner unit. Queralt’s 27 and McKeon’s 20 assists are both career-highs. 

Jenn Sciulli leads the conference in defensive saves this year with seven. The back from Palmyra, Pa., has 13 in her career, which is tied for third with in the Ohio State records with Jessica Findeison (1994-97) and Aubrey Stock (1997-00).

Danica Deckard is one of the key factors for the Buckeyes’ this year. In the last 13 games, the sophomore forward has 17 points on eight goals and an assist. Her nine goals, one assist and 19 points overall this season are all career-highs.

Deckard got the Buckeyes off to a quick start vs. Syracuse in the NCAA second round game with an unassisted goal at 7:13 from five yards out for the early 1-0 Ohio State lead.

In the last 13 games, the Buckeye defense has allowed just nine goals. Led by senior Bri Doak, juniors Jenn Sciulli and Aisling Coyle and freshman Nora Murer, Ohio State’s defense has only allowed an average of 1.18 goals and 7.72 shots per game this year. 

Defensive highlights:

  • Denied Ohio a shot in the final 42:22 minutes of a 2-1 (OT) win, Aug. 31.
  • Outshot Kent State, 16-0, Sept. 5, and Robert Morris, 34-0, Sept. 29.
  • Limited Indiana (Oct. 2) and Penn State (Oct. 17) to just four shots.
  • Held Ball State to only two shots and did not allow a penalty corner the entire game, Oct. 27.

Junior goalkeeper Ally Tunitis leads the league in shutouts with seven this year and set the Ohio State season record for wins with 18. In conference play, the Macungie, Pa., native leads the Big Ten with a 1.15 goals against average in 1576:35 of total action. Tunitis had four saves in the 3-0 shutout of Iowa in the final game of the regular-season Oct. 30 and in the 2-0 win over Michigan State Nov. 5 at the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeye goalkeeper then tied her season high with six saves vs. Syracuse in the NCAA second round game.

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