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Senior forward, Emma Eggleston, dives to the ground during Ohio's 3-1 home victory over Central Michigan on Sept. 23.

Field Hockey: Ohio defense looking to add to winning streak

Coach Ali Johnstone has brought new defensive tactics to Ohio.  

Ohio has given up 22 goals this season, but the defense has been solid.  

The two games against ranked opponents this season saw Ohio (4-4, 2-0 Mid-American Conference) give up 15 goals, but in the other six games, the Bobcats allowed only seven goals.

Ohio will hope to continue its defensive effort Sunday when it travels to Philadelphia to take on Drexel and its leading scorer Tess Bernheimer.

In its four wins this season, Ohio has allowed only two goals total. Offensively, the Bobcats only having scored more than one goal three times this season. They rely on their defense.

Bernheimer, one of ten players who has scored for the Dragons, has seven goals and one assist for the season. Drexel is scoring almost three goals per game. 

The high pressure defense that Ohio plays means everyone on the field has a defensive responsibility, but the three players in the backfield are the last line of defense.

For the trio to work well, many factors are needed, including communication and individual skill. 

The Bobcats only have eight games playing together, but they have quickly developed chemistry and found success as a team.

That chemistry has helped Ohio to a three-game winning streak, and it will take on a Drexel team that has lost three straight, which could be four if it loses to No.19 Delaware on Friday. 

The only upperclassmen, Amy Edgerton, was recruited to play in the backfield but had been playing in the midfield in her first two years. This season, Johnstone moved her back to the backfield. 

Edgerton has been playing as the left back and used her skills as a midfielder to help the team control possession. 

The right back, Leah Warren, was the only one that played in the backfield last year. She's a key player for Johnstone, and she's able to do anything needed. 

"She is a defender, but she has the ability to out skill anybody," Johnstone said. 

Warren is a key part of the attack. Her passes to the forwards down the side quickly turn a possession into an attack.  

At some points, the only defender on the defensive half of the field for Ohio — other than the goalie — is freshman Ashley Wilbur. 

Johnstone has given Wilbur a lot of responsibility as the center back. Wilbur has stepped up and earned praise from Johnstone, especially after the win over UC Davis.

“I actually came up to her at the end of the game. She thought she was in trouble, but I was just so proud of her,” Johnstone said. “She also pulled out some tackles that veterans take years to perfect, and I was just really impressed with her."

Despite being a freshman, Wilbur has the confidence to make decisions on her own and will move around when necessary to help the team.

As the trio gains experience playing together, they are learning how one other play their position and how to work together within the system.  

“With each game, it feels like we're communicating more, possessing more, kind of working off one another more. That's just something that comes with experience with one another," Edgerton said. 

Goalie Alex Pennington, who has started the last four games for the Bobcats and had two shutouts, helps the defense. She was the starter last year and can use her experience to help out the defense to be in the positions that are needed. 

Sunday's opponent has one of the best goalkeepers in the nation in Alexis Sokach. She is tenth in the country in goals allowed, giving up just over one goal per game. Sokach has been out the last two games after suffering an injury in the 16th minute against Yale on Sept. 9. 

Erin Gilchrist has started the last two games, allowing four goals in two losses. 

For Johnstone, the more game reps the trio gets, the better.

“Their communication is getting better every single game and they're stepping up,” Johnstone said. “Their work ethic is phenomenal."


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