Aug. 26, 2004
There is much optimism at Ohio State going into the 2004 season. And why not? The Buckeyes are rich in experience with the return of all 11 starters and 22 letter winners from a team that finished a program best 13-5-3 and gained its second consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament in 2003.
Lori Walker, who enters her eighth season as head coach at Ohio State, possesses a roster that boasts nine seniors and expressed that the 2004 squad could be the best of her tenure.
"This year the focus will be on leadership," Walker said. "I believe our seniors are developed and anxious to embrace the leadership role."
Walker will have many weapons to choose from in 2004 including the return of two-time leading goal scorer Lisa Grubb, who missed nearly all of the 2003 after suffering an injury in the season-opening game. The Buckeyes also return 2003 All-American and sophomore defender Melissa Miller, who was named to the 2003 Big Ten All-Freshman team and junior forward Colleen Hoban, a 2003 Great Lakes All-Region selection and OSU's leading scorer with 24 points.
With the return of nine seniors, the Buckeyes feature one the most experienced and deepest teams in Ohio State annals.
The senior class is led by four-year defensive starter and 2003 Most Valuable Player and 2004 co-captain Erica Nollen. In 2003, Nollen led a defensive unit that gave up an OSU all-time low 17 goals and a 0.77 goals against average.
The senior class also features 2003 Offensive Most Valuable Player Kathy Fulk on the frontline. Fulk was second on the team in scoring with five goals and four assists last season.
Midfielder Emily Gilbert will provide leadership as a second co-captain through her physical style. Heather Miller, who totaled a team-high 42 shots, gives the Buckeyes a boost with perhaps the strongest leg on the team.
"Every year this class has improved at taking new steps in success," Walker said. "With the experience these players have gained over the past three years, I think they can find what it will take to play in December for a national championship."
Three-year starters Liz Mumley and Paige Harrison also will be looked to provide leadership. Mumley, who was named to the 2003 All-Big Ten Tournament team, was third on the squad in scoring with 12 points. Harrison tallied seven assists to help lead the Scarlet and Gray to 41 goals on the season.
Ohio State also possesses two veteran goalkeepers in seniors Emily Haynam and Jen Heaney. Haynam played in 15 games last year, posting a record of 5-2-2 and a GAA of 1.00, including two shutouts. Heaney averaged a 0.00 GAA in three games. She also contributed at the forward post, scoring a goal against Dayton in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Along with the talented class of seniors, the Buckeyes feature an excellent crop of juniors and sophomores.
Hoban will once again provide the Buckeyes with a scoring spark. The junior tallied a team-high 10 goals and four assists last season, which included four game-winning strikes.
Danielle Dietrich gives the Buckeyes added depth at midfield. The junior played in 20 games last season, netting three goals and four assists for 10 points.
Sophomore keeper Staci Sinkway returns after a sensational freshman campaign. Sinkway burst into the Buckeye lineup with a 1-0 shutout of
then-No.6 Virginia to help OSU to a program best 5-game win streak to start the season. Since that contest, she has proven herself as a worthy and reliable keeper for the Buckeyes. In her first collegiate season, Sinkway finished with a 5-3-1 record, a team-best GAA of 0.59 and two shutouts.
The Buckeyes have much to celebrate with their 2004 recruiting class. The seven-member class will bolster an Ohio State team that is coming off its best season in the 10-year history of the program.
Walker added an international flavor to the recruit class this season as Lara Dickenmann, a native of Kriens, Switzerland joins the Buckeyes after a standout career as a starter for the Swiss National Team and its Under-19(U-19) squad.
"Adding outstanding players from different regions and backgrounds brings a unique flavor to our team," Walker said. "Dickenmann is arguably the top player in Switzerland and she is an experienced winner, playing on two Swiss national championship teams."
The Buckeyes also welcomed two top commitments from California in forwards Heather Young and Carleta Arbulu.
Young is a six-time member of the Southern California state team, a five-year member of the Region IV Olympic Development (ODP) team and competed for the USYS National All-Star Team in April 2003, playing matches against the national teams from Germany and Holland.
Arbulu is a five-year member of the Southern California state team and a four-year competitor on the Region IV ODP team.
In addition to an impressive out-of-region and international class, Walker added a trio of stellar Ohio products in Lindsay Mays, Keianna Mitchell and Heather Roberts, who all are veterans of the ODP system.
The Buckeyes added offensive punch in Mays, while Mitchell and Roberts come to Ohio State as renowned defenders and multiple all-league selections at their respective schools. Mitchell was named to Cincinnati All-City teams following the 2001, '02 and '03 seasons, while Roberts climaxed her scholastic career as All-Ohio, All-Midwest and NSCAA All-American.
Ohio State will once again face a full slate of challenges in 2004, highlighted by a trip west to meet 2002 National Champion Portland (Aug. 27) and a consistent top-25 team in Washington (Aug. 29). The road also features matches against conference foes Michigan State (Oct. 1), Michigan (Oct. 3) and defending Big Ten Champion Penn State (Oct. 22). The home schedule includes matches against LSU (Sept. 9), Virginia Tech (Sept. 12) and Loyola-Chicago (Oct. 24).
The Buckeyes will finish the season with home matches against Kent State (Oct. 27) and Toledo (Oct. 30) before hosting the Big Ten Tournament Nov. 4-7 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.