There was no repeat of last year’s letdown for the Buckeyes in the NCAA Tournament.
The No. 16-seeded Ohio State men’s soccer team opened its NCAA Tournament run with a second-round 2-1 win over Providence, a year after being upset by Drake in the second round despite holding the tournament’s No. 4 seed.
Goalkeeper Matt Lampson was nearly perfect in the net for the Buckeyes, helping to push the team’s unbeaten record at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium to 8-0-1 this year.
“For me, the man of the match was Matt Lampson, and the effort of the team was spectacular,” coach John Bluem said.
Lampson made three critical saves in the game, including a stop on a penalty kick when the game was scoreless midway through the first half. The other two came on breakaways when Lampson was the last line of defense.
At one point midway through the second half, OSU had luck on its side when the Friars missed a wide-open goal, banging a shot off the left goal post.
After a rare defensive lapse for the Buckeyes, who gave the ball to Providence with two attackers in the box against one defender, OSU elected to foul rather than give up the game’s first goal. Matt Marcin took the penalty kick for the Friars, but Lampson guessed correctly and made the stop to the left to preserve the tie.
“We felt all along that Matt is the best goalkeeper in our conference,” Bluem said. “He really is an outstanding goalkeeper. But in our biggest games this year, he’s been huge, and we know he’ll continue to be huge for us going forward.”
The Buckeyes’ first goal came when the team’s leading scorer, Konrad Warzycha, notched his eighth goal of the season, capitalizing on his own penalty kick in the 58th minute. Sam Scales had the ball in his possession with a clear shot 15 yards from the net but was fouled by the Friars, giving Warzycha a penalty kick for OSU.
“I’m not going to lie, there was a lot of pressure. You just have to pick a corner and stick with it — you can’t second-guess yourself,” Warzycha said. “You don’t watch the goalie. Just know where you (are) and do (your) best to execute it just how you planned.”
Omar Vallejo scored his first career goal in the 72nd minute when he streaked down the right sideline past the Providence defenders to shoot past goalkeeper Jhojan Obando’s left for the game’s decisive score.
Vallejo had been rotating as a forward and didn’t capitalize on scoring chances until Sunday.
“It was real exciting. The team always puts me there to score goals,” Vallejo said. “After I scored, I was just way too excited.”
Bluem said, “We’ve been waiting for his first goal of the season for a while now, and hopefully they start coming in bunches now that he got one.”
Bluem said the wind was more of a factor than he had anticipated. The wind whipped south to north for most of the contest, but it was at the back of the Buckeyes during the second half, when they scored.
There was a clear discrepancy in the energy level of both teams. The Buckeyes hadn’t played for 10 days — since they lost their opening game of the Big Ten Tournament on Nov. 11. The Friars played their third game in the last 10 days on Sunday.
Bluem said it’s normally difficult to be an at-large team and play two games in the tournament’s first four days, especially on the road.
Providence scored its lone goal when Greg Davis got a header past Lampson off a free kick in the 86th minute.