COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s soccer team, which begins regular season play Aug. 21 against Bowling Green at 7:30 p.m., was picked to finish fifth along with Minnesota in the conference this season by Big Ten head coaches in a poll released today by the Big Ten.

Penn State garnered the top spot in the preseason poll followed by Michigan State, Illinois and Purdue. 2009 marks the seventh-consecutive time the Nittany Lions have been favored to begin the season.

The Buckeyes, under the direction of 13th-year head coach Lori Walker, return 19 players, including nine starters, off of last year’s roster and welcome nine incoming freshmen. Three of the top four scorers return for the Buckeyes including co-captain Ashley Bowyer and leading scorer Paige Maxwell. Lauren Robertson will be back for her senior year in goal and Cassie Dickerson looks fully recovered from an ACL tear that robbed her of all but three matches in her 2008 campaign.

The 2009 season will be different from those in the past as there will be no Big Ten Conference tournament and the ten conference matchups will be played on Thursday, Friday and Sunday as opposed to just Friday and Sunday.

“The focus is definitely on the 10 conference games,” Walker, who has guided four Ohio State teams into the NCAA tournament, said. “It presents a new challenge of getting out of the Friday-Sunday mindset and places each team in a different rhythm. Training schedules will have to be adjusted and we won’t have the same day off  – typically Mondays – anymore.”

The Buckeyes’ schedule includes 11 matches at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium with Big Ten action kicking off against rival Michigan on Sept. 27. New for 2009, admission to Ohio State home soccer matches is free to all.