Ohio’s toughest weekend of the season was saved for the last two regular season games as it plays No.3 Duke and Mid-American Conference leader Miami.
The Bobcats have lost five straight games with their defense struggling. The two teams Ohio’s facing both have scored over 50 goals.
Ohio will be the fifth seed in the MAC tournament unless it’s able to beat Miami, and Longwood beats Ball State, which would make the Bobcats the No. 4 seed. Most likely Ohio will be playing Ball State in the MAC tournament, with the winner facing Miami in the semifinals.
On Friday Ohio will honor its two seniors on Senior Day.
Ohio coach Ali Johnstone didn’t want to play Duke (13-4, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) at this point in the season, but it was an open date and the Bobcats needed another game on the schedule.
“Would I play Duke at the end of the season normally, no, but when I came in, I needed games and it just worked out that they had space available and we needed more games for a season,” Johnstone said.
Duke is one of the top teams in the country, and the whole team is filled with the most talented players in the country.
“They have a really good goaltender, they have a World Cup player playing in their center mid position,” Johnstone said. “Her whole support staff everyone around her are just world-class players.”
The attack of Duke will challenge Ohio, as five players have scored at least five goals and 12 players have at least one assist. The Blue Devils are taking over 17 shots a game, while the Bobcat defense is allowing over 14 a game.
The Blue Devils are a team that makes adjustments at half time after seeing what happens in the first 35 minutes and then come out scoring in the second half with 36 of their 54 goals in the final 35 minutes.
Against a team that has more talent and depth, Ohio will need to play the role of underdog to have a chance to win.
“I really think we should go in as an underdog mentality, going in just playing our game,” forward Brittany Keen said.
The final MAC game of the regular season will be against Miami (12-6, 5-0 MAC), which has only allowed one goal in conference play while scoring 20 goals.
Miami has scored 52 goals this season, but all the attention of the Ohio defense will be on the nation’s third-highest goal scorer, Paula Portugal.
"If you can slow her down and try and limit her shots, then we'll have a better chance," Johnstone said.
Portugal is the focal point of the Miami attack as she has 21 goals this year on 96 shots, while no other player has scored more than six goals.
Along with a high-scoring attack, the RedHawks are one of the best in the nation in preventing goals. They’ve allowed only 20 goals in 18 games. Goalie Maddie Passarella has only faced 69 shots on goal this season and saved 68 percent of those shots.