After seven overtime periods and three draws, the Ohio State men’s soccer team can finally stop fretting over grabbing its first win – just in time to face a familiar conference foe.
“We’re not pleased that we have three draws, but we’re pleased that we don’t have three losses,” junior midfielder Zach Mason said. “Undefeated is always a good thing to have, obviously we want to start turning those (draws) into some wins, but getting one is the first step.”
OSU is scheduled to open its conference slate Sunday against Northwestern after a week off.
The Buckeyes (1-0-3) defeated Elon 1-0 in Wilmington, N.C., last Sunday to seal that first victory. Junior forward Joao Ehlers, playing in just his second game for the Scarlet and Gray after dealing with a groin injury before the season, dropped in the golden goal early in the first overtime period to deliver the victory. The Brazilian transferred to OSU from the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Ky., prior to the season.
“It was an amazing play by my teammates, we always work together,” Ehlers said.
He was named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week Tuesday for his efforts.
“I had the opportunity to finish close to the goal and I got lucky; the ball went through the net.”
Fresh off their first victory, the Buckeyes are set to face a team they’ve had little success against in recent years.
OSU has not beaten Northwestern since the 2007 season, although the two teams did battle to a scoreless draw in Columbus last year.
“You play the conference foes every year, so you’re familiar with their players, we know some of their strengths and weaknesses,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “It is pretty easy to prepare for conference teams because you are very familiar with them.”
Conference play has certainly shown it can be a major struggle for Bluem and the Buckeyes despite the familiarity between schools. The team went 1-3-2 against its conference opponents last season, including a 2-0 loss to Michigan State in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament.
“It’s always the most important time of the year, because doing well in the Big Ten really sets your benchmark for the year,” Mason said. “If we can start off with a win, it will make a statement. We haven’t been that successful in the Big Ten the last few years, but it’s a new year, and I think we’re ready to get in the top tier of the Big Ten.”
It has been a busy start to the season for OSU. The team has begun the season with a pair of two-game weekend tournaments. If that’s not enough, it has yet to finish a game in regulation time.
“We’re really tired and beat up right now,” Bluem said. “It’s been a long preseason, it’s been a tough couple weekends playing Friday-Sunday-Friday-Sunday like that, so this is a good time right now to have a week to prepare for Northwestern.”
The Wildcats (2-0-2) are led by a stifling defense that has only allowed one goal in their four games this season. Senior goalkeeper Tyler Miller set a school record with his 30th career shutout in Northwestern’s scoreless draw against California State University, Fullerton on Sunday.
The Buckeyes’ Big Ten opener against the Wildcats is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start Sunday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.