Fresh off a pair of victories, the Ohio State women’s soccer team is preparing for its first conference games of the season.
The Buckeyes are 3-3-0 on the year after picking up wins at home against Dayton and George Mason last weekend. Freshman forward Sammy Edwards was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for completing a hat trick in the game against Dayton on Friday.
After OSU opened its season by playing against three ranked opponents, coach Lori Walker said the toughness of the Buckeyes’ non-conference schedule will aid them as they look to compete in the Big Ten.
“You’re playing at game pace right from the get-go and we had to really focus on our defending and the quality of our defending against some pretty high-level opponents, so we have no delusions of grandeur about how hard the game is supposed to be played,” Walker said. “I think there are other teams in our conference that don’t play as hard a schedule and then they get into Big Ten play and it’s a shock at how hard the game is supposed to be played.”
The team is set to begin conference play against Indiana on Friday and Purdue on Sunday. The Hoosiers are 4-2-0 while the Boilermakers are 4-1-1 so far the season. Senior midfielder Ellyn Gruber said there is more added pressure to playing within the conference.
“(The) Big Ten is (where) every, every game matters. Obviously every non-conference game matters too, but in the Big Ten you only get so many and you have to finish in the top eight in order to make the tournament,” Gruber said. “So you know that every game matters and it’s really competitive and every team you play you know is going to be good.”
Senior forward Kayla Varner said the young team has become more comfortable playing together than they were at the start of the season.
“It’s starting to come together a little bit more,” Varner said. “We have freshmen stepping up, we have sophomores stepping up and that’s helping out the upperclassmen a lot. I think we’ve improved in just kind of stepping into our roles a little bit more and trying to find out what makes everyone more comfortable playing together.”
Walker said she wants to see the team maintain its offensive tempo and provide consistent play as it looks toward playing in the conference.
“You’re always trying to get your attack running on all cylinders as quick as you can as you hit conference play,” Walker said. “What we want to see is that the speed of our attack doesn’t fall off based on who is on the field, that we have a consistency to that as well.”
The Buckeyes are scheduled to start Big Ten play on the road against the Hoosiers on Friday at 7 p.m. in Bloomington, Ind., and against the Boilermakers on Sunday at 3 p.m. in West Lafayette, Ind. The game on Sunday is set to be televised live on the Big Ten Network.