The Ohio State women’s soccer team will have one last chance to qualify for the Big Ten Tournament as they host No. 23 Rutgers in a pivotal contest.
The Buckeyes are 6-9-3 (3-6-3) following a late surge in a win against Nebraska on Sunday and now face a must-win game to keep its chance of making the Big Ten tournament alive. Junior defender Michela Paradiso said the team understands the game’s importance and has amped up the focus in practice.
“We know this is win or go home,” Paradiso said. “I think everyone’s been extra focused this week and we’ve been doing a lot of fun, competitive drills.”
The Buckeyes must finish among the top eight teams of the conference to make it into the Big Ten tournament. OSU is currently tied for ninth place with Northwestern in the conference standings. Along with a win against Rutgers, the Buckeyes would need Maryland to draw or lose to No. 7 Penn State to qualify.
The Scarlet Knights are 11-4-1 overall with a 7-4-1 record in their first season as members of the Big Ten. Senior forward Kayla Varner said the team is ready to play hard against its new conference rival.
“So far they’ve done well in this conference,” Varner said. “We just have to step up and pick up our standards and play as competitive as we can.”
The seniors playing their final home game will also be recognized prior to kickoff. The Buckeyes have four seniors on the roster who are set to be honored in Varner, midfielder Ellyn Gruber, defender Ashley Gruenbaum and midfielder Kenzie Schlemitz.
Paradiso said the team would like to honor its seniors with a win on Friday.
“We have four great seniors that have done so much for our program,” Paradiso said. “I think we just want to send them out on a good note.”
Coach Lori Walker said the Buckeyes have matured since the start of their season and hopes to see that maturation continue after facing the Scarlet Knights.
“I feel like we are where we wished we were at the beginning of Big Ten (play),” Walker said. “We’d like to extend our season but you’ve got to take care of Rutgers and they’re a really good team.”
Kickoff is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.