Tim Kubick / For The Lantern
A seven-year drought on the Ohio State men’s soccer team ended when senior Austin McAnena netted his first three goals of the season.
Besides powering the Buckeyes past Butler, 4-1, on Wednesday, McAnena’s hat trick was the first for the Buckeyes in seven years.
“I’m very happy for Austin,” said coach John Bluem. “He’s been a little bit frustrated this year, but I think he had a very good performance here tonight.”
Coming off back-to-back shutout losses to Louisville and Indiana, midfielder McAnena knew a comeback was needed.
“It was a good start,” McAnena said. “My first goal of the season was the first goal. Obviously that was just huge for my confidence and hopefully the team’s attacking confidence in general.”
Co-captain Sage Gardner also put the ball in the net for the Buckeyes.
It was also the junior defender’s first of the season and a relief.
“It’s always good to get your first goal, kind of a weight off your shoulders,” Gardner said.
Although the Buckeyes couldn’t get a shutout win against a defensively strong Butler team, Bluem still sees this victory as pushing the team forward.
“This was a really good Butler team coming in the game. They had some good results and tied a couple of nationally-ranked teams. It wasn’t like this was a slouch opponent; they had only been beaten once this year,” Bluem said.
McAnena agrees that the game was a challenge, but said it brought everyone together.
“It’s big. I can’t remember, but it’s been a while since we’ve scored four goals, so that was definitely big for us,” McAnena said. “Defensively, hopefully we’re getting stronger.”
Focusing on the team’s strengths and forgetting the previous week’s weaknesses is part of the preparation for the approaching game against Michigan.
“We’ve had a pretty unlucky spell of games these past two against Louisville and Indiana,” McAnena said. “We had some unfortunate bouts against Indiana and this performance today went our way and hopefully we can build the confidence and build towards Sunday in Michigan.”
Freshman defender Zach Mason agreed said the Buckeyes have a clean slate.
“I think getting a win right before going into the depth of conference play is huge,” Mason said. “We said this is our new season, so right now we’re 1-0 and if we can carry this into the conference play, I think that’ll be huge and get us in the right direction.”
Moving forward is the team goal from here on out, and Bluem wants his players focused on continuing to get wins.
“I think that the work ethic of the team has to continue, they have to buy into it,” Bluem said. “They’ve got to understand that every guy on the field, every guy on the bench has got to be working hard for us to be successful and if they do that, and if they get some results and build some confidence, I think maybe we can turn this around.”
With a mid-season turnaround, Bluem said he wants his players to know their efforts have been rewarded.
“We’ve been telling our guys, believe in yourselves, you’re a good team, keep working,” Bluem said. “Good things will come our way if we work hard and they paid off.”
Mason said practice was full of team talks and how to better go after its goals.
“We got everything out in the open and really stated what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it,” Mason said. “So I think tonight was a good way of showing that talk had an effect and that we’re ready to go and get on the right track.”
The 4-5-1 Buckeyes take on their next conference opponent, Michigan, this Sunday in Ann Arbor at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.