“He is an incredible athlete, a dedicated student and the best captain I’ve ever played with.”
That’s what former Ohio State soccer player and fellow center midfielder Yianni Sarris had to say about senior Zach Mason.
“Mason is one of the best teammates a player could possibly want to have on their team,” Sarris said. “The work ethic he brings to the facility each day is unbelievable.”
Having already participated in 59 games in his three years with the Buckeyes, the senior has yet to miss a single match at midfield, making it a simple decision for coach John Bluem to announce that Mason will be a captain once again this season — one of three for the Buckeyes.
“It’s a great honor to be given the responsibility again to be captain of this team,” Mason said. “Not many guys get to be captain twice and I’m fortunate to have this opportunity. I think we have a group of players that can push themselves toward a championship this season.”
The Galena, Ohio, native is a graduate of Big Walnut High School and the Columbus Crew Academy, serving as captain for both. One could say the role of captain has become a part of his character.
“That’s just the type of guy he is,” Sarris said. “I had the privilege to not only play in the midfield with him for three years, but also the honor to go to work every day having my locker next to him. He taught me so much on and off the field.”
But for Mason, his success has never been a one-man effort. The senior was quick to acknowledge his teammates, admiring their motivation and determination to make the team victorious.
“We’re returning a lot of players, so it’s exciting to have a lot of guys back this season and the new guys have shown they have a lot to add this season,” Mason said. “We just have a really solid group and that’s hopefully going to set us up to win some trophies this season.”
Mason said the team has worked hard and is locked in to be successful this season.
“It’s not on me to have set anybody up, it’s just making sure everyone is tuned in and focused; but we have a really good group of guys that know what we have to do — win,” Mason said.
Last season, as a first-time captain, Mason led the Buckeyes to the NCAA tournament, making it to the second round before losing 2-1 to top-ranked Notre Dame.
Bluem was quick to point out the Buckeyes’ success in 2014, saying the experience could help the team this season.
“The guys got a taste of it; that’s a good thing to gain some experience,” Bluem said. “They’ve played in the NCAA tournament, playing in some very big games like that. That can help this group be better this season.”
Bluem added that the success in 2014 now encourages the team to set its goals a little bit higher and pushes the players to challenge themselves to do better than they did a year ago.
Now in his 19th season as head coach of the soccer team, Bluem explained that finding consistency is the key for his team to harness its previous momentum.
“Consistency … that’s what you want to find in your program every year. We want to be great, we don’t want to be average,” Bluem said.
The Buckeyes are now getting into their 2015 schedule, starting this weekend in the annual Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic. Mason seemed confident about the upcoming season, saying that the intensity from preseason has heightened as opening weekend approaches.
“There’s more bite and excitement around everybody now because it’s the real deal now,” Mason said. “It’s way more competitive. We are just ready to get the win and have a great season.”
Mason isn’t the only captain guiding the team this year. The senior will be joined by senior defender Liam Doyle and junior defender Tyler Kidwell.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to open their season against Cal State Fullerton at 7:30 p.m. on Friday before playing host to Binghamton on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.