The Ohio State men’s soccer team will enter Big Ten play winless on the season, only managing one goal over its first four games, resulting in an 0-4 record.
The Buckeyes suffered losses of 2-0 and 2-1 against Portland and Oregon State, respectively, in their two-game road trip over the weekend.
The lone bright spot for the Buckeyes last weekend was their first goal on the season, coming from junior forward Nate Kohl — his first career goal with OSU after transferring from Michigan.
“It felt great,” Kohl said. “But the ultimate goal is to win and we haven’t been doing that.”
With the start of the Big Ten season looming, both players and coaches alike can feel the tension in the air. They know the time to start winning is now.
“Big Ten games always have a lot more hype than any normal out of conference game because it’s so competitive in the Big Ten that everyone is a rival,” said senior forward Christian Soldat. “You just have so much more determination and grit and want to fight.”
The Buckeyes first Big Ten bout of the season comes against Northwestern at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium this Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Northwestern will come to Columbus with a record of 1-3 in 2016 under 16th-year head coach Tim Lenahan. Lenahan is returning six starters and 20 letterwinners from a season ago where he led the team to a 7-9-2 record.
The Wildcats are led by midfielders Brandon Medina and Jeffrey Hopson, totaling four points apiece with two goals each. The two seniors have scored all four of the team’s goals this season, all of which coming on penalty shots.
The two teams will faceoff for the 33rd time, with Northwestern coming out the victor in their last meeting 2-1 in Evanston, Illinois. However, Ohio State leads the all time series 18-11-3.
The Buckeyes will then face off against Penn State at University Park, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 7 p.m.
The Nittany Lions are 2-1-1 so far this season, including a tie against reigning national champion Stanford.
Nittany Lions head coach Bob Warming earned his 450th career victory in the team’s 2-1 win over Oakland on Sept. 5.
Penn State is led by senior forward Connor Maloney, who has tallied six points on three goals thus far.
After an injury to starting senior goalkeeper Evan Finney, the team turned to freshman Arie Ammann to man the net. Ammann has thrived in his new role, earning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week after allowing only one goal in the two matches he started, both resulting in wins.
Ohio State coach John Bluem knows the importance of these next two games for the team.
“(Big Ten games) carry a much greater weight to them,” Bluem said. “At the end of eight games you are either in first place or in ninth place. The first target we set for ourselves every year is to win the Big Ten Championship. That means every single game you have to be ready.”
The Buckeyes won the Big Ten last season after a rocky 1-4 start, and are looking to do the same thing this year.
“The biggest (game) right now is Northwestern,” Kohl said. “I believe in our team and I believe in our coaching staff that once we get that first win, we build off of that and we keep winning like we did last year. Get that streak going and I don’t think anyone in the country can stop us.”