The Ohio State men’s soccer team is set to kick off their 2013 season this weekend in the Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
OSU is set to take on UNC-Wilmington Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Northern Illinois Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
The Buckeyes are coming off a disappointing season with an overall record of 6-10-3, finishing seventh in conference play while going 0-4-2. Their average goals per game was 1.36, while their goals-against average was 1.68.
Despite graduating 10 seniors, including leading goal scorers AustinMcAnena and Chris Hegngi, OSU returns 11 letter winners. Of those 11, four are returning starters, senior defender and captain Sage Gardner, junior forward Kenny Cunningham, sophomore midfielder Zach Mason and junior defender Zach Dobey. Also returning is goalkeeper junior Alex Ivanov who started seven games and had a goals against average of 1.73. There are 17 newcomers for The Buckeyes this season and nine are true freshmen. OSU has the 29th ranked rookie class according to College Soccer News.
“Through three preseason games I think all the new faces have showed a lot of confidence,” Gardner said.
Gardner added the new players still seem a bit timid but “that’s just the nature of the beast.”
OSU looks to have a difficult schedule ahead of them this season, as they will play five opponents who are ranked in the top 25. Three of those games will be on the road, including a trip to preseason No. 1 and reigning national champion Indiana. When asked about the tough schedule, Gardner said with a smile that he’s “excited.”
Coach John Bluem said the challenging schedule is positive for the program and the players.
“You want the players to be challenged and they really enjoy playing in the big games,” Bluem said. “I think it helps with recruiting…guys that come to Ohio State know we are willing to play anybody, any place, any time and we think we can hold our own.”
Gardner, fifth-year senior defender Ben Killian (returning from a season long foot injury), and junior midfielder Alec Lowell have been named “Players to Watch” in the Big Ten Conference.
Killian said he’s good to go for the season.
“100 percent,” Killian said. “I did a lot of rehab this summer, making sure I’m strengthening everything.”
Cincinnati will play Northern Illinois in the tournament opener 5 p.m. Friday. The Buckeyes and Cincinnati will switch opponents for Sunday.