A cold night at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium played host to the first round of the NCAA tournament, in which the Ohio State women’s soccer team found a way to prevail victorious after a closely contested 3-2 match.
The Buckeyes (11-6-3) defeated the Dayton Flyers (9-10-3) in a tight game that bounced back and forth with multiple scoring opportunities from both teams.
OSU junior forward Sammy Edwards put the Buckeyes on the board early, after she maneuvered through multiple defenders, scoring the first goal of the night in the 15th minute from just outside of the goalkeeper’s box.
“After the goal, I think we were pretty excited,” Edwards said. “It just kind of calmed us down a little bit. I think we were a bit hectic in the beginning.”
Edwards said that the early goal motivated the Buckeyes to continue to keep up the strong offensive attack, not falling into complacency before the game over.
“After I scored, I looked at Lindsay (Agnew) and you could just see it in her eyes. She was happy we scored, but we weren’t going to stop there,” Edwards said.
Dayton equalized at the end of the first half with 20 seconds left on the clock, after junior forward Alexis Kiehl scored off a one-on-one faceoff versus OSU’s goalkeeper sophomore Devon Kerr.
Shortly after halftime, in the 56th minute, the Flyers grabbed the lead from a close shot by senior forward Libby Leedom. But, shortly after Leedom’s goal, Ohio State tied it up just a minute after Dayton’s goal with a shot by junior midfielder Nikki Walts from 12 yards, deflecting off the far post into the net.
OSU coach Lori Walker had confidence in the team’s response after Dayton’s quick goal, praising the constant attack by the Buckeye forwards.
“Coming out of halftime, our response was fantastic,” Walker said. “Nichelle (Prince) got in line immediately and we had two or three opportunities right out of the gate, which has kind of been our ammo at times.”
Both squads had multiple scoring opportunities in the second half, in which Dayton recorded seven shots against OSU’s 10. But the Buckeyes took advantage of their attack towards the end of the game.
Walts capitalized on a free kick from the top of the box, hitting the back right of the net, scoring her second goal on the night and reclaiming the lead for OSU in the 85th minute.
“Emma Firenze did a great job getting us that penalty, and I knew I needed to reward her for that,” Walts said. “So I picked up the ball and just focused in.”
Walts’ goal was enough, as the final whistle blew, ending the hard fought game, and sending the Buckeyes on to the next round of the tournament.
“I think the first thing for us is that ugly is beautiful tonight,” Walker said, as she reflected shortly after the victory. “This was not our best soccer by any means, and I thought our team really fought hard and figured out a way to win, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Walker praised the junior class team members on their ability to step up at the end of the regular season, along with the game versus Dayton. She noted that the senior class usually tends to be on edge towards the end of their collegiate careers, giving the younger teammates a chance to step up and play without any added pressure.
The Buckeyes will travel to Morgantown to play the West Virginia Mountaineers in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The match will be Friday, with the start time yet to be determined.