As the Ohio State women’s soccer team (8-3-3, 2-2-2) heads to State College, Pa., to play No. 17 Penn State, it has to prepare to face its second ranked opponent in its last three scheduled matches.
Coach Lori Walker said she understands the importance of this match for the Buckeyes.
“(Playing) at Penn State is always a great challenge,” Walker said. “It’s going to be a battle, and you know, we’ve just got to take it minute by minute. I (have) got to make sure my A-team gets on that bus.”
The Buckeyes won their last match Saturday, ending a three-game scoreless streak in the process, by finding the back of the net three times in a win against Michigan State.
“It was a huge weight off our shoulders,” said junior midfielder Ellyn Gruber. “We (had) been working all week on (finishing), a lot of repetition and stuff, so it finally gave us some confidence.”
OSU started the year at No. 23, peaking at No. 21, but fell out of the polls after losing to Boston College 1-0 Sept. 5, despite beating Northeastern 4-1 Sept. 8. The Buckeyes currently sit eighth in the Big Ten and if the team wants to move up the standings, it has to start with improved finishing offensively, sophomore forward Michela Paradiso said.
“We just gotta continue to work harder in practice and keep finishing, cause that can give us confidence that we can keep putting goals up on the board,” Paradiso said after Saturday’s game.
At 10-3-1 overall and 4-2-0 in Big Ten matches, the Nittany Lions are currently third in conference play, sitting behind No. 22 Nebraska and No. 12 Michigan. The Nittany Lions are coming off a 1-0 home loss to the Wolverines Sunday, their first loss at home since the beginning of the 2012 season to Stanford.
Offensively, senior forward Maya Hayes leads Penn State with 13 goals on the season, a mark that makes her second-best in the Big Ten.
The Buckeyes lost their matchup last season with the Nittany Lions, a 3-0 decision at home, but Gruber said the Buckeyes will be ready this time around.
“That’s going to be a huge, huge game. It’s going to be really tough, but we are just going to have a good, hard, week of practice, and we’ll be prepared,” Gruber said.
The game is set for 3 p.m. Thursday.