Under a new coach, Ohio’s attack has shown its potential after major scoring struggles last season.
Ohio has already scored as many goals as last season, 21, but more importantly the Bobcats are averaging 10.8 shots a game after only 6.3 shots last season.
The main difference in the attack this year is the new system that first-year coach Ali Johnstone has implemented. When on defense, Ohio pressures the opponent throughout the entire field to force a turnover, creating a goal scoring opportunity. When attacking, Ohio uses its stick-handling ability to draw penalty corners where the team has scored most of its goals.
When opponents get the ball into the Ohio half, the attacking players move back to help on defense, with one player usually in-line with the backfield of the opponent, ready for a counter-attack.
The defensive system has been a key factor in the attack, creating opportunities that have led to goals. Ohio’s not had a huge number of chances in every game this season, so it must take advantage of the opportunities where it can take shots.
“You get very rare opportunities to even get shots so being able to just be ready as soon as you hit that circle to get shots off,” Johnstone said.
A major difference this year is that Ohio is playing without last season’s top-goal scorer, Kendall Ballard, who has not played in a game this year for undisclosed reasons. That has made other players move into different roles as Ballard was the main attacking threat last year as a central midfielder. Nobody is able to play the same role of Ballard, but this season, different players have gotten the opportunity to attack more with the ball instead of letting Ballard to do that work.
"I think it’s a lot different just because we have so many different personnel on the team,” senior midfielder Emma Eggleston said. “We have so many people that can just take the ball and go to goal instead of really relying on Kendall, but I think everyone contributes a lot to the attack."
Becoming the coach very late in the recruiting cycle, Johnstone was unable to recruit many players, but was able to use transfers and international players to fill out the roster that only returned 11 players.
She has had to use the skills of the players that are here in the best ways as she implements her system.
The speed of forwards Karynne Baker and Brittany Keen has helped the high pressing defense, and on the counter-attack.
Against Kent State, the defense was struggling to clear the ball out of its defensive circle, but once it was able to do so, Baker was able to use her speed to outrun the backfield and have a shot on goal.
The attack has already drawn 11 more penalty corners than the team did last season and is averaging over five a game. That is a result of players using their stick-handling abilities to make the defense foul them.
As the season has gone on the Bobcats have grown at scoring from penalty corners, with Jillian Shive the main threat. She has nine goals on the season, and is able to thrive in her ability to redirected shots.
Along with Leah Warren, freshman Ashley Wilbur has three assists off penalty corners, even though both of them play in the backfield. The focus on scoring goals has left the team exposed at the back end, as Ohio’s allowing over three goals a game. That has led to a few losses this year, where the offense performs well scoring multiple goals, but the defense allows opponents to more clear opportunities on goal.
Still, improvement has been made.
“We're just trying to utilize everyone’s super strengths in different areas to try and obviously, be as strong as possible,” Johnstone said.