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New head field hockey coach Ali Johnstone stands for a portrait in her office on Friday, March 30, 2018. 

Field Hockey: Players love head coach Ali Johnstone

When coach Ali Johnstone’s name is brought up, a smile instantly appears on the faces of the Ohio field hockey players. 

Johnstone hasn't even been coach for a year, and she is already making an impact on the players.

"She's amazing," junior forward Karynne Baker said. "We all love her.”

On Friday, Johnstone won her first game as a collegiate head coach when Ohio beat Saint Louis 4-1. 

Things seemed to break Ohio's way in that game. The Bobcats' attack created opportunities, and Ohio was able to score its most goals since the opening game of the 2017 season. The defense put pressure on Saint Louis, and it prevented many chances from developing.

Off the field, Johnstone has connected with the players.

“She's one of the greatest humans in the world and one of the best field hockey players that went through Ohio, if not the best,” Baker said. 

While she's connecting well with the players, she's also finding challenges that lie within taking over a new field hockey program. The Bobcats are getting better, but they have a small roster. Different players are taking on different responsibilities. Johnstone is learning these things as she implements her way of coaching.

Johnstone recruited three transfers and inherited five freshman. But only 11 players return from last season, making the roster limited. But the Bobcats are beginning to understand what Johnstone is preaching, regardless of their past experiences.

“We're all once again buying in to her coaching style. She is a great leader for us as a whole," Baker said. 

It can be expected that the team would take some time to gel on and off the field with many bumps along the way.

But the process of buying in is filled with bumps at various stops.

“I'm pleasantly surprised with how the team is coming along, and I think we're really stepping it up," said Jillian Shive, a sophomore transfer from Louisville.

So far, the new-look Bobcats are improving. They took 45 shots in their first four games after taking only 100 shots in 16 games last year. 

Johnstone coached at Northwestern before coming to Athens. She played internationally for Canada and professionally in Germany. She knows what she's doing with a field hockey team. She's able to pass on that knowledge. 

Now that the Bobcats have started to buy into what Johnstone is saying, they're looking to put wins on the board in the Mid-American Conference. Improvement is one thing, but winning two weeks from now in conference play is another.

“She's just been so great for this program. I can't say enough positive things, so it’s been awesome," junior defender Amy Edgerton said. 

@TREricWalker

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