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Team ‘clown’ has Buckeyes eyeing regular season title

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The No. 23 Ohio State women’s soccer team (13-4-1, 7-2-0) has received a lift this season — on and off the field — from a self-proclaimed “clown.”

Junior forward Paige Maxwell leads the Buckeyes in goals and points, with nine and 19, respectively.

Maxwell said her self-confidence and personality have translated into on-field success this season.

“I pretty much keep a loose attitude,” Maxwell said. “I’m loud, sometimes obnoxious, but there’s a goofy side to me, and that’s how I deal with things. I’m kind of the clown of the team.”

A native of Medina, Ohio, Maxwell credited her team for allowing her to bring out her jokester mentality.

“I’m comfortable in my own skin,” Maxwell said. “When I’m in a comfortable environment, just my personality shines even more because I feel comfortable. Life’s funny, it can’t be taken too seriously.”

Maxwell’s career at OSU got off to a fast start as she led the Buckeyes in goals her freshman season, with eight, and was selected as the team’s offensive MVP. A knee injury set Maxwell back her sophomore season — she started only eight games for OSU but still led the team in goals, with six.

“Last year, I was really hurt and I was in a lot of pain, so my place last year was coming off the bench, and I’d try to do what I could,” Maxwell said. “This year I definitely think I add a different attribute to the team. I’m older, so everything comes with more experience and just especially the time, with this being my third year here, you keep learning things.”

Of Maxwell’s nine goals this season, four have been game-winning scores, including overtime goals against Penn State and Northwestern. Maxwell’s ability to find the back of the net at the right times this season has been crucial for a Buckeye team looking to earn at least a share of its first Big Ten title in program history.

OSU coach Lori Walker said Maxwell’s personality has played a role in the forward’s clutch performances.

“Paige is the kind of player who was built to have responsibility on the field,” Walker said. “We know she’s got a pretty positive attitude about everything. Her outlook on life is pretty upbeat, and so it takes a lot to rattle her confidence. If she misses one shot, we know it’s not going to roll over into the next. She’s pretty consistent in that way.”

Chance to clinch

The Buckeyes missed an opportunity to clinch a share of the conference title when they dropped a 1-0 decision to Indiana (6-11-1, 2-7-0) on Sunday. They play Friday against Michigan State (9-5-4, 3-3-3).

A win over the Spartans would clinch OSU at least a share of the Big Ten title and potentially an outright title, should Penn State (9-8-1, 7-2-0) suffer a loss or earn a draw against Michigan (10-3-4, 5-2-2) on Sunday. If both OSU and Penn State lose or draw this weekend, Wisconsin (10-4-4, 7-1-2) would earn the conference crown.

Walker said she’s trying to keep her team focused on beating Michigan State.

“We were a little unfocused last week, and that was the sense that we had with the Indiana game, … that we were kind of looking ahead to things,” Walker said. “I think they learned their lesson. All we’re worried about right now is each day, and playing good soccer is our No. 1 priority, and just our work rate has gotten us to where we are.”

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