The MSU field hockey team stated earlier in the week that they wanted to put their preseason record behind them as they enter Big Ten play.
Thanks to the continued strong play of junior forward Allie Ahern, the Spartans were able to do so Saturday.
Ahern scored the game-winning goal off an assist from junior forward Abby Barker 62 minutes into the game to seal the Big Ten opener for the Spartans (4-6 overall, 1-0 Big Ten) over Ohio State Saturday afternoon, 3-2.
“I’m just going all out and trying to put goals in for the team, because we want to win so bad and the forwards are the ones that have to do it,” Ahern said. “I’m just trying my hardest.”
Ahern scored two goals on three shots for the game, giving her a team-leading nine goals for the season. Her goal total is one of the highest in the Big Ten conference.
Sophomore midfielder/forward Mallory Tyler scored her first goal of the season, and senior goalkeeper Molly Cassidy had four saves.
After a shaky 3-6 preseason marred by inconsistent play, head coach Helen Knull said winning the Big Ten opener is a confidence-booster for her team.
MSU opened with a 2-0 lead, but quickly let Ohio State back into the game when they scored two goals within two minutes in the first half. Despite the lack of consistent focus, Knull is pleased her team pulled out with the win.
“To go up 2-0 early and to have the game tie again led to a little bit of a different outcome there,” Knull said. “To the girls credit, it’s the first game we’ve gone up in a while, tied, and pulled ahead with the win. For us, it’s a huge confidence builder, and it helps us moving forward in Big Ten play.”
MSU scored the first goal of the game when Ahern scored on a straightaway shot off an assist from junior midfielder Alli Helwig 7:47 minutes into the game.Tyler later scored off an assist from junior midfielder Becky Stiles.
Despite the hot 2-0 start, MSU quickly let Ohio State back into the game when Buckeye Kaitlyn Wagner scored on an assist from Mona Frommhold. Less than two minutes later, Frommhold set up another assist for Sophia Pifer.
“We started off with a lot of confidence, obviously,” Barker said. “After that, we kinda took a step back and let them step in and start playing their game. Halftime was a good break for us to say “hey, we need to stop and get out this lull.” And then we played 35 minutes of pretty good hockey.”
Neither team was able to score in the second half until Ahern’s game winner 62:18 minutes into the match. Ohio State had a chance to score on a corner play with under a minute left, but a strong defensive stand from MSU prevented a goal.
Ahern credited her offensive output to Barker, who assisted her on the game-winning goal.. Ahern and Barker both acknowledge a connection on the field between the two players, which leads to created plays on offense.
“We just have this automatic connection with each other on the field,” Barker said. “It’s really great because we just know where each other are on the field and we don’t even have to say it to each other. We just know and play the ball with confidence with each other.”
Though MSU has started Big Ten play on the right foot, they still weren’t able to play 70 strong minutes of field hockey.
Knull said after the game, she told her players “there’s no such thing as cruise control.” Maintaining consistency will be a point of concern for the team moving forward.
“You can’t let off, and I think at times when you go up, mentally you set back a little bit and think ‘I’ve got this game’ when you should keep pushing forward,” Knull said. “At halftime, we were talking about urgency and intensity stepping up to the ball, especially at midfield. We definitely did that second half.”