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CARY, N.C. -- Familiarity comes in more than one shape at the 2010 Women's College Cup.
Both Notre Dame and Stanford are led by upperclassmen who played a 2008 semifinal against each other at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., experience that hardly rates a surprise, considering Notre Dame has been to the past five College Cups and Stanford the past three. Boston College is making its first trip to the final weekend, but the Eagles aren't exactly unfamiliar with their surroundings in Cary. They play here each year in the ACC tournament and were more than happy to again book rooms at their favorite local hotel, knowing both the full offerings at the nearby mall and how the pitch plays at WakeMed.
Ohio State, alone, arrives with little sense of its surroundings. Good thing the Buckeyes know where they're from.
"We're a Midwest team," Ohio State coach Lori Walker said. "We're going to battle in the air, we're going to be fit, we're going to grind and we're going to play as good of soccer as we're capable of playing. We like to say of ourselves that we are a team that plays with Big Ten mentality and ACC flair because that's the conference we're always battling up against."
Midwest may describe their style, but the Buckeyes' roots can be pinpointed with even greater cartographical precision. They are truly Ohio's state team. There are 15 Ohio natives on the roster, more in-state talent than any of the other three teams here (Stanford has 12 players from California, Boston College has seven from Massachusetts and Notre Dame two from Indiana). For a program not yet two decades old, the first trip to this stage of the postseason has special meaning for players who were born before there was an Ohio State women's soccer team.
"We were talking about that on our way here, how growing up, a lot of players went away and out of Ohio because Ohio State wasn't thought of as good enough," junior Danielle Scoliere said. "So it's very special to be a part of this team and be a part of the reason we're here. I think think it has some special meaning -- I grew up 20 minutes from Ohio State, so it has special meaning, growing up an Ohio State fan and being able to represent them here."
Of course, goals and good fortune, not mailing addresses, will have the greatest say about whether this collection of players becomes the first to play for a national championship in women's soccer after Friday's game against Notre Dame. Unity, motivation and all those things only go so far once the whistle blows. But if you buy the premise that the final product can only be as good as the ingredients, going local may prove the best way for Ohio State to take a Midwestern style to the season's final game.
"The players that do well in our system are right in Ohio," Wilson said. "I think that we have done a nice job to keep some of these players home; all of them have had opportunities to go wherever they wanted, so maintaining them as Buckeyes has been a really big and important part. But we just try to be who we are and not be anybody else."