Photo courtesy of Walt Middleton
For the third time in school history, the Ohio State women’s soccer team (16-4-1) can call themselves Big Ten tournament champions.
In its first tournament title game appearance since 2007, the No. 2-seeded Buckeyes topped No. 5-seeded Illinois, 2-1, in a contest that marked OSU’s ninth win in a row.
It’s a figure that ties the program’s longest winning streak which was set in 2004.
But it didn’t necessarily come easy for the Buckeyes.
After taking down, No. 7-seeded Nebraska and No. 3-seeded Michigan, OSU needed every score it could get in a game that began as a defensive stalemate.
OSU senior forward Tiffany Cameron erupted for two goals – her 19th and 20th of her current record-setting season – in the 65th and 68th minutes to put OSU up, 2-0. Illinois would pull to within a goal at 2-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation but freshman goalkeeper Jillian McVicker kept the Buckeyes’ lead intact and allowed OSU to hang on for the third Big Ten Tournament championship in program history.
Cameron was named the Offensive Player of the Tournament while McVicker took Defensive Player of the Tournament honors. Cameron and McVicker joined senior defender Lauren Granberg on the All-Big Ten Tournament team.
After the game, Cameron said her goals came from a desire to help the team.
“I put the game in my hands because I wanted to help us,” Cameron said. “I focused on scoring and getting open.”
In the 65th minute, Granberg and redshirt freshman midfielder Megan Scoliere assisted on Cameron’s goal – a volley from inside the 6-yard line.
Freshman forward Michela Paradiso assisted Cameron on her second goal. Cameron took the ball with her back to goal, turned and fired into the side-netting of the Illinois goal from 18-yards out.
Illinois’s junior midfielder Allie Osoba scored the team’s only goal in the 81st minute with a back-post header of a cross.
After starting their 2012 campaign 0-2, Cameron said the Buckeyes were able to turn things around for the better.
“We focused on practicing harder and getting extra touches and taking things more seriously,” Cameron said.
En route to its win against the Illini, OSU needed to take care of two other Big Ten members first, though.
On Friday, the Buckeyes dispatched rival Michigan with a goal in the first three minutes by sophomore defender Ashley Gruenbaum.
The Buckeyes tallied again in the 12th minute when a corner kick by junior defender Megan Fuller skimmed the head of a Michigan defender and into the net for a Buckeye goal.
The Wolverines attempted to come back in the 72nd minute when junior forward Nkem Ezurike scored from 10 yards to make the score 2-1, but the Buckeyes maintained the lead.
Before that, OSU started its Big Ten Tournament run with a 1-0 win against the Cornhuskers on Oct. 31.
Buckeyes coach Lori Walker said she was proud of how her team dealt with a hectic Big Ten Tournament schedule.
“I am really proud of the effort they put in,” Walker said. “Three games in five days is tough and everyone on the team contributed to the success.”
Senior midfielder Kendyl Reed said any uncertainty of what the year would hold was answered against the Illini.
“After our first weekend of the season we joked we didn’t know how our season would go,” Reed said, “and it’s great to make it this far.”