Around the Oval is Eleven Warriors' weekly love letter to Ohio State sports that don't get the coverage they should.
Just 24 hours after the NCAA announced the placement of the red-hot Buckeye men's basketball team in the postseason, it was time for the women's squad to learn their fate. Though they ended their season in a relatively strong manner, it was still going to be difficult for them to get a bid from their 18-13 overall record and their 7-10 mark in the Big Ten. And so it proved, as the team failed to make the tournament for the first time in over a decade. Even with the lowest win total of coach Jim Foster's tenure, the team was still invited to play in the NIT, but after talks between Foster and administrators the team decided to decline the invitation, citing injury concerns.
Somewhere during that conversation there was another decision made: Foster will not return next year for his 12th season as head coach. Conventional wisdom is that even though Foster achieved great things in Columbus, his teams came up short in the postseason too many times, and a down season like the one they just had was enough to convince the athletic department that a change was needed. Now the university can hopefully hire a coach that has the means to take the program to the elite level.
But even if it wasn't a great year for women's basketball at Ohio State, there were still some positive takeaways. Whether it was the consistently excellent play of all-time great Tayler Hill, or exciting moments like Ameryst Alston's buzzer beater, this season still had its enjoyable memories.
So congratulations, ladies, on a hard-fought campaign, and we hope to see you all back in the tournament this time next year. Also we'd like to congratulate the team's three seniors: Tayler Hill, Amber Stokes and Emilee Harmon. Hill is a projected first-round draft pick — maybe even top 10 — while Stokes will look to play overseas. Harmon's basketball career is over, and she is now in the process of joining the Columbus police department, meaning all you law-breakers in the greater Columbus area should watch out for a six-foot-two officer coming your way.
We here at 11W wish them all the best and thank them for their contributions to Ohio State athletics. As for the rest of the team and the new coach: see you in the fall.
Detroit Rock City
This past weekend was finally playoff time in hockeyland, with your Ohio State men's team hosting a best-of-three series against Ferris State. It had been almost two weeks since their final regular season game and anticipation for what was surely Ohio State's best chance in years to progress to the conference semis was at a fever pitch.
A packed house greeted them at the OSU Ice Rink on Friday night, and even though Ferris was the game's first scorers, the Buckeyes managed to score twice and lead early in the second period. The Bulldogs apparently hadn't read the script, and sucked the emotion out of the venue with another tying goal. The visitors landed the classic sucker punch early in the third just after killing off a power play, and they repelled the Buckeyes the rest of the way for a 4-2 victory.
Facing elimination already, the Buckeyes refocused for Saturday night's game, but another lackluster opening materialized when the visitors scored after only three minutes. Up against it now more than ever, Ohio State looked for any kind of opportunity to steady the ship, and a Bulldog penalty was the boost they required. Ryan Dzingel made sure it wouldn't go to waste by scoring his 15th of the year, and after point machine Max McCormick gave them the first lead of the night, there was no looking back. The series was all square after a 3-1 win.
Sunday's deciding game followed the same pattern: Buckeyes fall behind before getting level and then hanging on to their lead, only this time with the last part emphasized. Ferris threw everything at goalie Brady Hjelle, but the Buckeyes' player of the season performed as he had in so many other contests, and behind his 47 saves the Scarlet & Gray edged the Bulldogs, 3-2 and 2-1 in games.
For a team who started 9-11-5, a run like this might've looked like a longshot, but an outstanding final eight weeks of the season have lifted the Buckeyes to a place they haven't been in eight years: Joe Louis Arena and the CCHA Final Four. But nothing was ever out of the question according to defenseman Curtis Gedig, who had the tying goal in Sunday's game.
"We always think we have a chance at the start of the year," Gedig said. "Anything can happen. I’m so proud of the team. I haven’t been with a better group of guys."
After the euphoria of a playoff victory, attention turns to Saturday's opponents, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. The teams met twice in Columbus a month ago for their only series of the season with Ohio State winning the first game and Notre Dame winning in a shootout the next night. It takes a combination of things to win a championship in hockey, but if you have an exceptional goalie you will always fancy your chances, and that's exactly what the Buckeyes have in Hjelle. A CCHA Championship is probably the only way OSU makes it to the NCAA tournament, but if his heroics between the pipes continue and their top scorers keep firing, they could find themselves there.
The Buckeyes and Irish will contest the first semifinal on Saturday at 1:05 p.m. Luckily the game has been picked up by Fox Sports Ohio so many more interested parties can get the chance to see it. The second semi between Miami and Michigan is later that day at 4:35 p.m. Then on Sunday both the winners will compete for the final CCHA Championship at 2:05 p.m.
Baseball is back in Columbus
It's spring! Well, technically. And even if the weather doesn't really reflect a new season, there are some things the cold can't keep at bay, and baseball is chief among them. Ohio State's squad has already been playing for a month now, but it was only this past weekend when they finally returned to the comforts of Nick Swisher Field at Bill Davis Stadium.
A three-game series against Bryant began on Friday with Jaron Long allowing only one run in seven innings pitched. The Buckeyes' bats were led by Pat Porter whose evening included a triple and an RBI as he went 2-for-4. Leading by one in the bottom of the eighth, Ohio State had the bases loaded when a sac fly from Jacob Bosiokovic scored one run, and then a pinch-hit single by Greg Solomon brought another runner across as the Buckeyes won, 4-1.
In the sixth inning of Saturday's game the hosts found themselves down 2-0, but a double from Aaron Gretz and a Kirby Pellant single tied the game. But Bryant scored the decisive run in the top of the ninth when a bases-loaded fielder's choice allowed Dan Cellucci to score. Ohio State had one last chance in the last half inning, but with a man on third Mike Carroll could only ground to short as the Buckeyes lost, 3-2.
In Sunday's rubber match, it was Bryant who struck first with a huge third inning which saw them score four times off Buckeye starter Brian King. An inning later it was Ohio State's turn to display an offensive eruption. Joe Ciamacco's single scored two, and base hits from Craig Nenning and Solomon tied the game. Tim Wetzel gave Ohio State their first lead of the afternoon with a two-RBI single as the home team finished their two-out rally in style. A combination of King, Greg Greve and Trace Dempsey held Bryant scoreless as Ohio State won the game, 6-4.
The Buckeyes (12-10) are back on the road this week to face Purdue in West Lafayette. A three-game series begins Friday night at 7, with Saturday's game starting at 2 and Sunday's at 1.
The Great Outdoors
This past weekend was the first time the Ohio State women's track and field team competed outside, participating in the Shamrock Invitational in Conway, South Carolina.
Although Thursday didn't produce anything of note for the Buckeyes, the rest of the competition brought some decent success. The 4x800m relay team of Janel Olberding, Rebecca Rings, Katie Betts and SoSo Walker ran a school record 8:56.55 to take first place in the event. Freshman Emily Schwartz took the pole vault title at 3.50m, while Jordan Moxley came in third at the high jump.
Sophomore Alexandria Johnson was first in the 400m hurdles, but that event was dominated overall by freshman Alexis Franklin. She was in the top three twice, placing third in the 100m and running away with the 400m title after finishing with the second-fastest time in the nation. Her exploits gave her Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week honors, becoming the first Buckeye to win the award in almost a year.
The team will compete again this weekend in the UCF Invitational in Orlando today and tomorrow.
Strike Up the Band
Just one band event going on at OSU this week: the Wind Symphony will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday evening at Weigel Hall Auditorium. Tickets are $10 for the general public and free for students.