Despite a big win against Northwestern last weekend, the schedule does not appear to be getting any easier for the Ohio State men’s soccer team as it continues Big Ten play.
OSU (2-0-3, 1-0-0) won against Northwestern, 2-0, at home behind a pair of second-half goals. Now the team looks to carry that momentum into a matchup with the two-time defending conference champs — Penn State.
“It’s going to take a lot (to get a victory),” junior defender Kyle Culbertson said. “It’s going to be a lot of effort from a lot of different guys. It’s going to be a tough game, it’s going to be a tough atmosphere, so it will be a good one, and we just have to make sure we do the best we can and hopefully come out with a good result.”
In those two consecutive Big Ten championships, Penn State (5-0-1, 1-0-0) has only lost one conference game in each season. The loss last season just so happened to come in Columbus against OSU.
“That was a really good result for us, on senior night, too,” redshirt-senior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov said. “We were just really organized that game. Everyone was on the same page and firing on all cylinders, and we were able to get a lucky goal in overtime.”
The Buckeyes defeated the Nittany Lions, 1-0, in double overtime Nov. 2 with the help of a goal by then-freshman forward Danny Jensen. However, coach John Bluem said he does not feel that positive result for his team has too much bearing on OSU’s chances in this season’s showdown.
“It’s a lot of different players,” Bluem said. “They’ve lost quite a few players, but there’s enough players from both teams that played in that game that will remember that contest, so that’s something that adds to it a little bit.”
Penn State comes into the game ranked No. 10 in the country. The Nittany Lions won against Saint Francis University (Pa.), 3-0, on Tuesday.
“We’re just looking forward to Penn State, knowing it’s going to be a hard game,” Culbertson said. “I know they’re ranked pretty high in the country and also No. 1 in the conference, so I know it’s going to be a tough game. They’ve done well in the conference the last two years and kind of set the standard for everyone else.”
Bluem singled out several players on Penn State’s roster that will be a handful for the Buckeyes on Sunday, including sophomore forward Connor Maloney, junior midfielder Brian James, a transfer from the University of Virginia, and senior goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton, whom Bluem referred to as the best goalkeeper in the conference.
“We know they have many quality players, so there’s a lot we’re going to have to prepare for and look out for,” Bluem said.
Bluem compared each game to tests taken throughout a semester, with each test presenting new challenges and obstacles.
“We’ll play the game, and we’ll have a good game plan into it,” Bluem said. “We’ll be well prepared for the test. But whether or not we pass the test sometimes is out of your control.
“Sometimes you get a result but you’re not happy with the way you took the test,” he continued. “And sometimes you’re happy with the way you take the test, but you didn’t get a result.”
OSU is set to travel to State College, Pa., to take on the Nittany Lions on Sunday. The game is scheduled to start at 1 p.m.