The Ohio State men’s soccer team (5-7-5, 1-3-2) earned the sixth seed in the Big Ten Tournament after falling, 2-0, to No. 16 Wisconsin in the team’s regular season finale Friday. The loss on the Badgers’ senior night snapped a five-game unbeaten streak for the Buckeyes, who finished the regular season winning three of their last four matches.
Buckeye coach John Bluem said he hopes the team learned that it needs to match the physical intensity of its opponents if it wants to play and get a win.
“They physically dominated us, they were more aggressive than we were and they played harder than we played,” he said. “In most of the games this year, especially when we started playing better, it’s when we started matching the other team’s physical aggressiveness.”
Although the Buckeyes began the match aggressive, taking the first shot and forcing the first three corner kick opportunities, a first-half goal by the Badgers (13-3-2, 4-2-0) halted Buckeye redshirt-junior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov’s four-game, 445-minute spell of not allowing a goal. The goal came in the 23rd minute of play when Wisconsin redshirt-senior midfielder Tomislav Zadro scored off a diving header from the far post, after connecting with Badger sophomore midfielder Drew Connor. The goal was Zadro’s fourth of the season.
The Buckeyes tried to fight back, firing two shots of their own in the following six minutes, but were unable to find the back of the net. At the half, the Badgers had outshot the Buckeyes, 6-5.
The Badgers added to their lead with a second-half goal midway through the 71st minute. Badger senior forward Nick Janus finished off a knockdown from an OSU defender, squeaking it past Ivanov into the right side of the net. The goal gave the Badgers a 2-0 cushion, eventually leading to the victory.
Despite leaving Madison, Wis., with a loss, Ivanov said the team was able to learn some last-minute things about itself before heading into the conference tournament.
“I think we learned that obviously, when we’re sharper than that, we usually play a lot better than we did,” Ivanov said. “We didn’t have that extra fiery edge that we usually do, and we all know collectively that we’re better than the performance we had.”
Buckeye senior defender Sage Gardner said the way the team prepared for Wisconsin proves to him that the team can play at the same level of play as any team in the conference.
“I think Wisconsin was a little fluke for us — we definitely got out-hustled and out-muscled playing up at Wisconsin for their senior night,” he said. “I think it was kind of a tough situation for us and I don’t think we responded well, but I think the way we’ve been ending the season the way we’re moving upwards is a positive.”
Wisconsin finished the match outshooting OSU, 14-7, but Ivanov was able to gather six saves, propelling him into seventh place for single-season saves in OSU history with 101 on the season.
Up next, the Buckeyes are scheduled to take on No. 18 Michigan State in the first round of the 2013 Big Ten Tournament at 2 p.m. Wednesday. The teams met earlier in the season, playing to a 1-1 tie in double overtime.