Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect a correction.
A pair of feline foes will cross paths at Pruitt Field today, but the competing cats took vastly different paths to get there.
The Bobcats will take on the Lafayette Leopards in an NCAA Tournament play-in game this afternoon. Ohio won the Mid-American Conference Tournament Saturday, and Lafayette claimed the Patriot League title the same day.
The end-of-season hardware was the same for both squads, but the teams danced to the beat of different drums on the way to field hockey’s Big Dance.
Ohio (18-4, 9-1 MAC) opened the season on a tear and won its first six matches. The Bobcats later assembled four- and five-game win streaks and entered the NCAA Tournament having won their last three outings.
But the regular season was not as smooth for the Leopards (11-8, 4-1 Patriot League), who did not win back-to-back games during the non-conference schedule and stayed below .500 until the season was a month old. Two sets of three-game winning streaks put Lafayette in good shape heading into the Patriot League tournament.
Ohio and Lafayette play their home games 450 miles apart, and the schools have never met on the pitch. They had two common opponents this season, Temple and American. The Bobcats won both matches, and the Leopards went 1-1.
With only three days to prepare for a completely unfamiliar opponent, Bobcat coach Neil Macmillan admitted he was not sure of the Leopards’ plan of attack.
“I think it’s the same for them though as well, which is nice,” he said. “We played American this year, so obviously they’ll get the tape on that, and that really was one of our better games, I thought. That hopefully gives them a bit of a miscommunication of how we are.”
Lafayette’s nondescript record underscores what the team has done this season. The Leopards lead the Patriot League in shutouts (six), goals (54), assists (39) and penalty corners (174). Ohio has played three more games than Lafayette and has higher totals in all four categories.
But the only statistic that matters today is the score after 70 minutes of play.
“We played a ton of teams that are going to be in the NCAA (tournament),” senior Brooke Edwards said. “We can compete with those teams. That’s our dream — to get into the NCAA.”