Last year, the Big Ten soccer season was postponed until the spring, so we’re really looking at a 2021 season 2.0 as soccer returns to the fall.
The women’s team had a great year during the shortened spring schedule. Earning a berth in the NCAA tournament (the 14th appearance for 25-year head coach Lori Walker-Hock!), the Buckeyes beat Stony Brook 5-1 in the first round and then suffered a season-ending loss to Santa Clara 1-4 in the second round.
Overall, the team finished 8-3-3; in addition to the Santa Clara loss, the other losses both were at the hands of Rutgers. Ten of eleven starters from the team are back for the fall season. The top four goal scorers return, including Emma Sears, who scored six times and Kayla Fischer, who had five goals. Defender Izzy Rodriguez, a third-team All American, returns on the back line. Both Rodriguez and Fischer were first-team All Big Ten performers in the spring season.
While there’s certainly a great deal of optimism for this year, the Buckeyes’ schedule is far from easy. Even the pre-season exhibitions were challenging, as the Bucks dropped their two matches to highly regarded Notre Dame and Pitt. The season began in earnest on August 19, when Ohio State lost to 15th-ranked BYU 0-3 in Provo, Utah. The home pitch, so far, has been friendlier with the Buckeyes beating in-state rivals Akron and Bowling Green, by scores of 4-1 and 3-1, respectively. Sears netted three goals in the Akron match, and forward Fischer scored two against BGSU, as the Bucks improved their record to 2-1.
Next up is #2 North Carolina on Sunday and then #19 Central Florida on Thursday 9/2. Additionally, three Big Ten foes are currently ranked: #7 Penn State (9/26), #22 Rutgers (10/3), and #18 Michigan (10/17).
Yeah, the schedule looks like a real murderer’s row. But Walker-Hock is adept at getting the most out of her players, as her overall 262-179-52 record shows. And she’s got a lot of talent to work with this year.
The Buckeye men’s team, under fourth-year head coach Brian Maisonneuve, hopes to improve over the spring’s record.
The reason for the ill success last season is easy to spot: Ohio State simply didn’t score much. They finished the abbreviated schedule with a record of 3-6-1. Ten games, and the Buckeyes were shut out in five of the six matches that they lost, scoring only ten goals total.
On the positive side, the Bucks return all of their scorers from last year, had several freshmen play really well in the spring season, and have some promising new first-year players for this year.
Midfielder Laurence Wootton, from Halstead, England, was last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Wootton is joined by last-year starters Parker Grinstead (midfielder), Xavier Green (midfielder), Deylen Vellios (defender), Ty Konrad (forward), Thomas Gilej (defender), and goalkeeper Noah Lawrence. In the spring, Lawrence played in the net every minute of every game.
A couple of newcomers attract attention. Nathan Demian, a defender from British Columbia, played on the Canadian National Team’s U-15 and U-17 squads and is well seasoned at the international level. Incoming keeper Max Trejo has been playing with Sporting KC, and Tommaso Villa has participated in the Columbus Crew Academy. All seem ready to get some quality playing time.
The men’s season got started on Friday, August 27 as the Bucks beat Memphis, by a score of 3-2, in the first match of the Wolstein Classic in Columbus. Wootton got his season started in good fashion with two goals, and Xavier Green put one into the net. The second game will be Sunday against the University of Alabama, Birmingham. The following weekend, Ohio State travels to Bloomington for the IU Classic and will play Xavier on Friday (9/3) and Creighton on Monday (9/6).
After non-conference matches against West Virginia, Akron, Cleveland State, and Bowling Green, the Buckeyes face a Big Ten slate of away matches at Northwestern, second-ranked Indiana, Michigan State, and Rutgers. Maryland, Wisconsin, 11th-ranked Penn State, and Michigan will come to Columbus and play at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadiumm. Go Bucks!