Published Thu, Oct 20, 2011 7:14 pm Dateline
Yes, the Bobcats (7-8-1, 4-3-1 MAC) are coming off a 2-0 shutout of Bowling Green. Yes, Ohio is in first place of the East Division in the MAC. But no, this team is not celebrating just yet.
You would think a team that has generally overachieved and surprised their opponents on the way to a winning record in the MAC would be thrilled with where they sit. However, this ream has unfinished business. With three matches left, Ohio is looking to finish strong.
“This team is determined, and they certainly should be,” head coach Stacy Strauss said. “Nothing really changes in terms of our goals and our conviction to stay atop the MAC East and go into the tournament the highest seed possible.”
Now, Ohio prepares to host Buffalo (9-4-3, 2-3-3 MAC) on Friday before traveling to Kent for a MAC showdown with the Golden Flashes (10-6, 4-4 MAC). A win against Kent State, who currently sits second in the East, would go a long way in ensuring the Bobcats finish on top.
With the obvious pressure of Sunday’s match, the toughest part of the weekend may be making sure they do not overlook Buffalo.
“I think it’s definitely important that we focus on Friday’s game first,” senior Rachael Philpot said. “We need to make sure we do the little things to get the win and then we’ll move on to Sunday.”
The Bobcats battled through three key injuries last weekend, including starting goalie Mattie Liston. In her place, Freshman Nicole Amari started her first game in goal and notched a clean sheet in the Bobcat’s win over Bowling Green. Can we be surprised? This team has pushed through adversity all season.
With the status of goalie Mattie Liston and defenders Paige Howard and Kim Nordtveit uncertain for this weekend’s matches, Ohio turns to less proven players like Amari in goal, and Natalie Bechtel and Kirsten Frank to help shore up the back line. The 12th-year head coach believes that Amari will build off her successful first start.
“Her confidence was helped just getting the one game under her belt,” Strauss said. “She’s very clean technically, and even in the time that she’s been here, I think she has made a lot of improvements in her ability to cover the whole goal.”
What Ohio has to develop quickly is a strong relationship between the defense and Amari. If the Bobcats struggle to get on the same page, the results will show it.
“Communicating is such a huge thing out on the field,” Philpot said. “When we’re talking, we’re very successful.”
Friday’s meeting with Buffalo could set the tone for the weekend for the Bobcats. If Ohio wants to press forward without missing a beat, all of the parts will have to come together.
While many would say this season has already been a success for coach Strauss and the Bobcats, you won’t hear that from them. Not unless they finish this one off on top of the MAC East.