Tim Kubick / For The Lantern
Zach Mason has never played a game against the Michigan Wolverines, but the freshman defender knows how he feels about the maize and blue.
“I never really liked them that much,” said Mason, who grew up in Columbus.
The Ohio State men’s soccer team (4-5-1) travels to Michigan for a Sunday conference showdown against the Wolverines (2-5-0). The Buckeyes will look for their first conference victory of the season, while trying to win a fourth consecutive match against the school’s rival.
The Buckeyes opened conference play on Sept. 23 with a 2-0 home loss to Indiana. Coach John Bluem said that the goal is always to win the conference championship.
To be in contention, he said, teams aim to win at least four Big Ten games. Including Michigan, OSU has five conference opponents left on its schedule.
“To get four we are going to have to definitely (win) some on the road since we lost one at home already,” said Bluem. “We’ve got to go up to Michigan and play on the road and that’s always difficult. It’s going to be a tough challenge on Sunday but I think we’ll be prepared and ready to go.”
OSU ended a two-game losing streak in blowout fashion on Wednesday, with a 4-1 victory against Butler. Austin McAnena, who scored the school’s first hat trick since 2005 against the Bulldogs, said Wednesday’s route gives the team confidence heading into Ann Arbor.
“I mean it’s big, it’s been awhile since we’ve scored four goals,” said the senior midfielder. “Hopefully we can build off of this against Michigan.”
Junior defender Sage Gardner conceded that the rivalry isn’t celebrated like the annual football contest, but said it’s still plenty intense on the pitch during soccer’s version of “The Game.”
“It’s pretty big,” Gardner said. “We went up there my freshman year, it’s a tight little field and they get a pretty good amount of fans. It’s pretty intense.”
McAnena was also on the team when the Buckeyes last traveled to Ann Arbor in 2010, and remembers how rowdy the Michigan faithful were during OSU’s 1-0 victory.
“It’s just a battle, a great time,” McAnena said. “Two years ago we went to their place, (their fans) were just ripping us apart. It was just awesome for us.”
OSU will attempt to silence fans clad in maize and blue with a win on Sunday, which Mason said would help turn the team’s season around.
“I think it’ll be a good way to get our first win in conference play, and get in the right direction,” Mason said.