Two familiar foes face off in a rematch of a regular-season bout that sent both teams in different directions this year. Despite the dominant play of the West Virginia Mountaineers and the modest performances of Ohio State, the season has come full-circle as the two teams meet in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The OSU women’s soccer team travels to Morgantown, West Virginia, to play the top-seeded Mountaineers on Friday at 6 p.m. In the first matchup, the Mountaineers (20-1-1) beat the Buckeyes 2-1 in a tightly contested game on Sept. 4.
OSU (12-9-2) comes into the game following an opening-round win against Dayton. The Buckeyes carry a chip on their shoulder waiting for a rematch with a team they have great knowledge on.
“We do know a lot of girls on that team, and it is a very familiar team,” said senior forward Lindsay Agnew. “I think I’ve played them maybe five times in my career, so it’s always fun when you’re playing people you know.”
The Mountaineers went on to win 15 of their final 16 games after playing OSU, while the Buckeyes went winless in four out of its next five games. However, OSU coach Lori Walker is keeping those games in the past.
“I have no control over what my opponents are doing,” Walker said. “Again, if we’re in a better position and playing better than we did eight weeks ago, I like our chances.”
Walker pointed out that she believes the Buckeyes have developed a strong attack and an efficient midfield, all of which have played at full-force since the last meeting with West Virginia. This includes a mentality of toughness that has had a role in this week’s practice.
“We’ve really focused on having a warrior mentality. My team is extremely competitive and they’re highly motivated,” Walker said. “(The mentality) is ‘I’m going to be respectful in everything that I do, but my job is to beat you’ and there’s no apologizing for that.”
Redshirt senior defender Morgan Wolcott anticipates a few surprises coming from West Virginia, but said she believes OSU has an upper hand. Wolcott is filled with confidence and the motivation of claiming victory after losing the regular season match. Defensively, the focus on Friday night will be communication and knowing where each defender has to be throughout the game.
“It’s going to help us tremendously, especially putting up numbers around their forwards,” Wolcott said. “Their forwards are pretty quick and they like to take a lot of shots, so having that shot-block mentality against them, to not let those outside shots happen, will be huge for us.”
Agnew said the strength of West Virginia’s back line strength made the Buckeyes put emphasis on combination plays that move the ball quickly during practice, along with being physical to win the ball back, then go on the counter-attack.
Though there is the simple pressure of winning and moving on, Walker continued to praise the younger Buckeyes’ leadership and ownership of individual responsibility in the wake of the end of this season. Walker said that these younger teammates have freed up the senior class, giving them the ability to enjoy the competition while playing with confidence.
“This could be my last 90 minutes. I’m just approaching every game like this could be the last,” Agnew said. “So just giving everything you’ve got until the final whistle blows, just not giving up, and keep playing until the final second.”