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Ohio University forward Brittany Keen attempts to steal the ball from Saint Louis during the game against the Billikens which the Bobcats won 4-1 on Aug 31.

Field Hockey: Ohio faces tough challenge in first MAC game of season

Ohio (1-4) will begin Mid-American Conference play Friday as it hosts Appalachian State (4-3). In other words: it's "the real season." 

It's the first of six games Ohio will play to determine what seed it will be in the MAC tournament. It will also show if Ohio has a chance at winning the tournament to make the NCAA Championships.

“Obviously it’s the start of the MAC and we're very excited for our next season cause its basically another totally different season," coach Ali Johnstone said. 

Ohio was picked to finish sixth in the MAC in the Coaches’ Preseason Poll, while Appalachian State was picked fourth.

Ohio has been focused on working on certain things while playing against ranked opponents. But those focuses haven't yielded results. Ohio has been blown out in back-to-back games. 

“We're working on things as a team, and we're working on them against really top opponents,” Johnstone said. “So, the score doesn't matter. It obviously hurts the soul, but we have other things on our mind."

Ohio's lone win this season came when its forwards were applying pressure and scoring goals. Forwards Karynne Baker and Jillian Shive have combined for five of the team’s seven goals, as the Bobcats have struggled to score, despite having already attempted 50 shots. 

The Mountaineers beat the Bobcats 3-2 last year, their first season in the MAC. The Bobcats had more chances, and they outshot the Mountaineers 13-7.

Appalachian State's attack is spread out. Five different players have scored at least two goals. Nine players have at least one assist. Veerle Van Heertum leads the team with four goals, and Chloe Bell has scored two along with four assists. 

Kendall Ballard, Ohio's best player last year, has not played in any of the first five games due to undisclosed reasons.

The game was moved up to Friday at 11 a.m. Appalachian State has to return to its campus that evening to prepare for the effects of Hurricane Florence.

@TREricWalker

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