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Ohio State men’s soccer preview: No. 18 Buckeyes open with two games at home

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Ohio State sophomore Marcus McCrary (19) dribbles the ball through a group of Michigan players during a soccer game at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Nov. 4, 2015. OSU won 3-1. Credit: Lantern File Photo

Ohio State sophomore Marcus McCrary (19) dribbles the ball through a group of Michigan players during a soccer game at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Nov. 4, 2015. OSU won 3-1. Credit: Lantern File Photo

The Ohio State Men’s Soccer team will begin its season this Friday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. as they take on the Virginia Tech Hokies at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

The first regular season game comes as part of the 11th-annual Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic.  The No. 18 Buckeyes will conclude the weekend-long tournament at home against No. 13 UC Santa Barbara on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m.

“The guys are excited to get started,” said coach John Bluem. “These preseasons are long and difficult. The guys just want to have a chance to play games that are meaningful and to play here in our stadium where we were very successful last year. We are all looking forward to the opportunity.”

The Buckeyes are coming off a Big Ten championship season in which the team finished with a 13-7-3 record (5-2-1 in conference), making it to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament where they lost to future national champion Stanford.

Seven starters and 12 letter winners will be returning from last year’s team, including four of their top scorers – Yaw Amankwa, Danny Jensen, Abdi Mohamed, and Christian Soldat. On offense, the four combined for 16 goals and 16 assists in the 2015 season.

“We got a lot of new players. We are going to have six new starters or something like that,” senior defender Austin Bergstrom said. “UC Santa Barbara and Virginia Tech are two good teams so it is going to be a good test right off the bat. Hopefully we come out with two wins.”

Virginia Tech is coming off a 2015 campaign in which they finished 5-9-3 (0-5-3 in the ACC). They went 2-0 this year in preseason exhibition play, recording wins over East Tennessee State and James Madison.

The Hokies are lead by captains Alessandro Mion, Andre Thomas, and Ben Lundgaard.

Mion, a redshirt senior defender, was part of a Hokie defense that produced seven shutouts and allowed only 22 goals in the 2014 season. Last season, Mion was fourth on the team in points, assists and shots. He appeared in 11 games, starting 10 of them.

Thomas, a redshirt senior midfielder, will be in his third year as captain. He started all but one game last season playing 1,515 minutes for the Hokies.

Lundgaard, the junior goalkeeper, made 60 saves in 16 starts a year ago which was good enough for a .732 save percentage and 1.373 goals against average. Through the course of the season he faced 178 shots and tallied three shutouts.

“Traditionally [the ACC] is one of the best conferences for soccer in the country so I am expecting some really talented attackers,” senior defender Tyler Kidwell said. “It is going to be a tough game, but I think we had a good day of training today so I think we will be ready to go.”

On Sunday, OSU takes on No. 13 UC Santa Barbara at 7 p.m. in the finale of the four-team classic.

Coming off a season in which the Gauchos finished with a 14-6-2 record, UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg is aiming to repeat as victors of the Big West North Division.

UCSB is led by senior striker Nick DePuy. The Big West Offensive Player of the Year led the NCAA in 2015 with 15 goals in the regular season, eight of which came as game winners.

The Gauchos are undefeated all time in matches when DePuy has scored (16-0-4).

While players and coaches alike are excited for the season to begin, they know the road ahead will not be an easy one.

“People aren’t going to just walk in here and lie over and die because we are the Ohio State Buckeyes,” Bluem said. “ We are going to have to earn everything we get.”

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