Updated Sat, Aug 24, 2013 4:26 pm
After breaking her thumb in the third game of the 2012 Ohio Field Hockey season, senior defender Andrea Biegalski was redshirted.
The 2011 Mid-American Conference Tournament MVP could only sit and watch as her team stumbled to an 8-8 regular season finish, winning just two of five MAC contests before falling in the first round of the conference tournament to the eventual champion Miami (OH) RedHawks.
The season was, in a word, disappointing. And in this way, Biegalski’s 2012 was a microcosm of the entire season for the squad.
But with that chapter of Bobcat field hockey in the past, 2013 offers a chance at redemption for both Biegalski and her teammates, who are hard at work preparing to make a run at a fifth conference championship in just eight seasons.
“The overall goal this year is for us to shake off everything that went wrong last year and come into the season ready to show that we are not a pushover team,” Biegalski said. “We are here to fight.”
Biegalski is one of five members of this year’s senior class, each of whom will be vital to the success of the program this fall.
The Bobcats return two of their top three scorers from a year ago in Jessica Jue and Luli Gomez Teruel, who averaged 1.00 and 1.15 points per game, respectively.
Ohio will also welcome back senior midfielders Katie Fenzel and Riley Higgins as well as junior goalkeeper Brittany Walker, giving the Bobcats veteran leadership on each level of their formation.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they had to say goodbye to four graduates who will certainly be hard to replace, including two of the most prolific scorers in recent team history.
Taylor Brown and Cathryn Altdoerffer, who accounted for over half of Ohio’s shots a year ago, will not be on the field for the Bobcats this season. The leadership provided by classmates Laura Mastro and Marissa Higgins will also be missed.
However, head coach Neil Macmillan is excited about the new leaders emerging on this Bobcat squad.
“I don’t see [leadership] being an issue,” Macmillan said. “That’s just the nature of college sports. Every year a group of seniors leave and the next group has to step up. We’ve been working with them in different ways and I think we’re going to be very solid in our leadership.”
After going just 5-5 on the non-conference slate a year ago, the Bobcats will be looking to secure more victories before conference play begins.
That might be easier said than done, however, as Ohio will play on the road against three teams that were nationally-ranked at the end of 2012.
The Bobcats will travel to face Boston University in their first game on Aug. 31. They will also face off against Louisville on Sept. 8 and Northwestern on Sept. 15.
Other notable non-conference games include a tilt against California on Sept. 14 in Illinois as well as a home contest against Indiana on Sept. 21.
But perhaps most anticipated non-MAC challenge that Ohio will face this year will come on Oct. 6 when the Bobcats will travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State.
Ohio will only play five MAC opponents in the regular season, but the schedule will be demanding, to say the least.
Conference play kicks off with a bang on Oct. 5 when the defending MAC Tournament champion RedHawks visit Athens for a critical showdown.
The Bobcats will also host games against Central Michigan and Kent State, who finished third and second in the regular season standings last fall. The Chippewas will visit Athens on Oct. 19 and the Golden Flashes will come to Athens for the final game of the regular season on Nov. 11.
Ohio should be able to pick up a couple of conference wins when they visit Missouri State on Oct. 11 and Ball State on Oct. 26. The Bears and the Cardinals combined for a 2-8 record in MAC play a year ago.
Ohio was involved in ten one-goal games last season, but was only able to emerge victorious three times in these situations. The Bobcats were just 2-5 in games that went into sudden-death overtime or shootout periods.
If the Bobcats want to snag another conference title, they must improve in clutch situations, but this year’s team is determined to eliminate as much drama as possible.
“Last year we had too many games that were too close that shouldn’t have been that close,” said Fenzel. “It’s hard to explain our record in those games last year. But this is a new year and we have been working hard to make sure we are putting ourselves in situations that one goal doesn’t decide everything.”
“[The close games] definitely made us more thick-skinned,” added Biegalski. “We went through that failure but sometimes you need failure in order to succeed. And we are preparing like we really want to succeed.”
The past two seasons of Ohio Field Hockey have been as different as night and day.
In 2011, the Bobcats won the MAC Championship and a play-in game to the NCAA National Tournament before the top-ranked team in the country ousted them in the Sweet 16.
In 2012, Ohio rode a .500 campaign into the conference semifinals, where rival Miami defeated them.
But despite the disappointments of last season, the culture of success has not changed and these Bobcats feel that with hard work, they can get back to the top of the MAC in 2013.
“Last year didn’t go the way we wanted it to,” Macmillan said, “but we did compete with some very good teams and I expect us to do the same again this year.”
“What we did two years ago was awesome, how far we went, it was a great experience that I’ll never forget,” Fenzel said. “I would love to revisit that feeling before I graduate and we are going to make it happen.”