Bouncing Back to MAC Tournament


Ohio looks to use experience gained last year to return to the MAC tournament in 2017

Eric Walker / For The Post

The 2016 season did not go as planned for Ohio.


The Bobcats missed the Mid-American Conference Championship Tournament for the first time since 1989 and dealt with injuries that caused changes every game to the lineup.


A 6-11 record last year made it the fourth straight season that Ohio has had a losing record, but the team finished 3-3 in MAC play with improvements being shown as the season progressed. Scoring an average of two goals a game while giving up three did not result in many wins last season.


Defense is where Ohio will need to improve the most this season, as the team lost central defender Kristen Buchanan to graduation. The 14.5 shots allowed per game to opponents forced the Bobcat goalies to make save after save to keep the team in the game.


Two of the four recruits coach Neil Macmillan signed are defensive players and could compete for playing time immediately, as Macmillan will play whoever can help the defense allow fewer shots. Injuries hit the defense hard last year and forced Macmillan to play different combinations of players each game, so finding a consistent defensive group should help the team allow fewer shots, and ultimately, goals.

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Emily Matthews | FILE

Ohio University senior Adele Sammons prepares to hit the ball during the game against Appalachian State on September 13, 2015. OU won 4-0.


Kendall Ballard will return for her junior year after she led the Bobcats in goals, with 12, and tied for the team lead in assists, with four. The midfielder was always near the ball as the attack ran through her all season, even when she was moved to a more defensive role for one game because of injuries.


Teams will now focus their game plan on slowing down Ballard, whose talent is undeniable. She was named to the U.S. U-21 National Team on June 21 after the 2017 Young Women’s National Championship. The goals scored by Ballard may decrease this year, but that will result in more goals for their other talented attackers.


Maria Russell will enter her senior year after scoring six goals last year and 12 in her sophomore campaign. Russell is efficient with her shots; she shot only 21 times last year.


Alongside Russell was Brittany Keen, who tallied six goals and four assists in her freshman season. The Perth, Australia, native did not need any time to adjust to college field hockey: She tallied two goals in the first game of the season against St. Francis. She started 14 games and appeared in all 17.


In net, Alex Pennington became the starting goalie just before the beginning of conference play last season and will be in goal for the start of this season. Four of the Bobcats’ six wins came with Pennington in goal, and the team allowed seven goals in those four games.


The best game from Pennington did not come in a win but in a loss to Kent State, 2-1. She made 17 saves, which kept the Bobcats in the game for two overtime periods.


More than half of the starts last season were made by underclassmen, so the Bobcats have players with some experience at every position on the field. As experience increases, the number of mistakes each player makes should go down.


Years ending in seven have been special to Ohio, and the 2017 season will represent the 10-year anniversary of the 2007 MAC Championship team and the 30-year anniversary of the 1987 MAC Championship team.


The first step for Macmillan and the Bobcats is to return to the conference tournament with a large amount of experience gained by the underclassmen, along with the leadership of the upperclassmen.


Development by: Taylor Johnston / Digital Production Editor

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