Aug. 22, 2006
Ohio State women's soccer head coach Lori Walker approached the Buckeyes during the offseason with a not so novel, yet effective concept: Raising the bar for success and breaking the traditional standards of women's soccer at Ohio State not only will make the 2006 squad a contender in both the Big Ten conference and the nation, but will set a precedent for future Buckeyes to look to as an effective standard.
In conjunction with the higher expectations is a schedule that pits the Scarlet and Gray against some of the nation's toughest teams. The sizable Buckeye upperclass and a host of freshmen and sophomores will show off the premier standard of excellence against several soccer powerhouses, which for Walker unifies her philosophy, "If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best."
With six seniors in Emily Francis, Lisa Grubb (sixth year), Shannon Neely (fifth year), Michelle Markus, Melissa Miller (fifth year) and Taylor Smith returning to the lineup in 2006, Ohio State boasts significant leadership on and off the field. On tap to continue her unrelenting guidance is defender Francis, who was a 2005 team captain and will resume that role in 2006. Grubb, who also will serve her second-consecutive season as co-captain, will be entering her sixth year of eligibility at forward for the Buckeyes after sustaining season-ending injuries in 2003 and 2005 and currently is the OSU all-time leader in goals with 31. Neely, a natural leader at goalkeeper, will compete for starting minutes in 2006. Defender Markus joined Ohio State as a walk on late last season and will make noteworthy contributions to the team. Also selected as a tri-captain is central defender Miller, who as a two-time All-American, has started 65 consecutive games for OSU since 2003. Smith will continue her relentless involvement at forward, as she has played in 51 matches over a three-year span.
Joining the seniors is the junior class comprised of Lara Dickenmann, Carla Arbulu, Jenna Greenwood, Keiana Mitchell and Amanda Ball. As sophomores in 2005, this assembly was the largest class on the team and played in nearly 15 (14.8) of 18 matches as a whole.
Organized summer programs were a part of the offseason regiment for eight of 16 returning student-athletes, including Lisa Collison, who attended residency camp with the Canadian U-20 National Team in preparation for the U-20 Women's World championship in St. Petersburg, Russia, in August. Collison was the OSU leading scorer in 2005 with 13 tallies, tying Dickenmann's Ohio State single-season record from 2004. Grubb was anxious to receive some competitive game minutes after sitting out 2005 and Dickenmann continues to play for the Swiss National Team, which is currently trying to qualify for the 2007 Women's World Cup.
With more than 40 percent of the team comprised of freshmen, Walker is excited about what the rookie class has to offer. In particular, Ashley Bowyer, Lauren Robertson, Ali Schwach and Lauren Steuer will make an immediate impact on the team.
Bowyer, who will see action either in the midfield or wide as a forward, is a crafty player, who has great technical ability and vision to accompany a winning mentality.
A solid competitor in goal, Robertson has the chance to contribute right away, as she possesses a lot of experience that allows her foot skills to complement her dynamic goalkeeping style of play.
Schwach will make an easy transition to the collegiate ranks and will provide the necessary depth to the team in wide positions.
Steuer will provide depth at defensive midfield and in the back. She poses a ball-winning presence and clean distribution from deep positions.
In 2006, the Buckeyes will match up against seven teams that advanced to the 2005 NCAA tournament - Pepperdine, California, Purdue, Wisconsin, Illinois, Penn State and Michigan State - signaling a season of strong competition. Ohio State's 2006 opposition also is comprised of three teams - Penn State - No. 1, Cal - No. 9 and Purdue - No. 20 - that finished the 2005 campaign in the Top 25 of the final NSCAA/adidas poll, as well as one that received votes (Michigan State).
Most notable is the Scarlet and Gray's home record at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The Buckeyes own a 79-38-9 record at JOMS, which is good news for a team that will play 10 matches in "The Jesse."
Ohio State kicks off the regular season vs. MAC contender Kent State Aug. 25. OSU wraps up the weekend homestand two days later (Aug. 27) against Xavier of the A-10.
OSU then will make an appearance on the West Coast, as it will participate in the Puma Classic in Malibu, Calif., Sept. 1-3. The Buckeyes will face two strong WCC opponents in Pepperdine and San Diego during the weekend, before they travel to Lexington, Ky., to face Kentucky (SEC) Sept. 8.
The Scarlet and Gray return to Columbus, Sept. 15-17 to host the Ohio State Tournament, where it will welcome California and Washington, along with co-tournament host Dayton. The Buckeyes will match-up against the two Pac-10 powerhouses Golden Bears and Huskies.
OSU returns to the road to open its Big Ten schedule against Purdue and Indiana. While in the Hoosier state, Ohio State will face the Boilermakers Sept. 22 and the Hoosiers Sept. 24. The Buckeyes follow their road trip with a weekend homestand vs. 2005 Big Ten Tournament Champion Wisconsin and Northwestern, Sept. 29 and Oct. 1, respectively.
OSU plays its fourth and fifth road conference games of the year when it travels to Iowa City, Iowa, to face Iowa and Champaign, Ill., to take on Illinois. The Buckeyes then will take a break from conference and weekend action, hosting Wright State Wed., Oct. 11.
Ohio State's final road game is vs. 2005 Big Ten Champion Penn State, Oct. 15 and then the Buckeyes will wrap up their regular-season schedule at JOMS vs. Michigan State Oct. 20, Michigan Oct. 22 and Minnesota Oct. 27, before the Big Ten tournament Nov. 2-5 in State College, Pa.