Field hockey: MAC Tournament Outlook

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Ohio Field Hockey has had one of its best seasons in school history, winning 16 of 20 regular season games and garnering numerous post-season individual awards.

But now, it’s conference tournament time, when all the hard work and preparation put in over the course of the season truly shows.

Ohio is the host of this season’s MAC tournament, and it earned the number one seed after posting a 9-1 record in conference play – sufficient for a seventh regular season MAC title in school history.

However, while Ohio has seemingly breezed through its conference schedule this season, there are several challenges awaiting the Bobcats this weekend.

The first of those challenges comes with being the number one seed as well as the host: Ohio has a target on its back.

The ‘Cats have beaten every team in the tournament field already this season, so consequently, every team in the tournament has seen Ohio play well before.

And intriguingly, Ohio’s opponents have played it much closer as the season has progressed. The Bobcats’ average goal differential per game in their last nine contests is only +1.11, compared to +3.09 in their first 11 games.

Also, the natural inclination for teams in college sports is to step their game up in the post season. This is where upsets are prevalent, and no game is an easy victory.

Secondly, Ohio will not be able to practice on its usual schedule this weekend. Because six teams are hosted at one venue, practice time is limited, so none of the teams will have much opportunity to develop a game plan.

And while we’re on the subject of game plans, keep in mind this is a bracket-style tournament, and Ohio has a first round bye. Now, this does mean more rest for the Bobcats, but it also means Ohio has not known who its second round opponent will be all week. This obviously presents a challenge in preparing to match up with teams’ different play styles.

But, despite all of this, Ohio has been successful all season under 2011 MAC Coach of the Year Neil Macmillan for a reason: its discipline.

Ohio is among the nation’s elite teams in nearly every statistical category, from shots on goal to goals allowed.

Ohio also sports five All-MAC first team players, including MAC Defensive Player of the Year Louzeth Schutte.

The bottom-line is, this is a complete team. They do everything well. AND, they happen do a lot of those things with darn near perfect precision.

Miami (OH) defeated Ball State by a score of 2-1, and Central Michigan defeated Missouri State 3-1 on the opening day of the tournament.

Ohio plays its second round game against Miami (OH) tomorrow at noon. If it wins, Ohio will advance to the MAC Championship game, which is held Saturday at 1 PM. This is where the Bobcats could potentially meet up with No. 2. Kent State, the only team to defeat Ohio in conference play this season.

All games this weekend will be played at Pruitt Field.