With only one regular season game remaining for the Ohio State men’s soccer team, its standing in the Big Ten race is still unclear.
“We could end up being all over the place, we could end anywhere,” OSU coach John Bluem said.
The Buckeyes (7-6-4, 4-3-0) currently sit in a tie for third in the conference standings, however, OSU can finish anywhere from a share of first place to a tie for sixth, depending on the results of multiple games across the Big Ten.
“I guess it does feel different,” junior defender Liam Doyle said. “There’s a lot at stake, not only in the Big Ten but looking forward to the NCAA Tournament.”
In order to receive a share of the regular season Big Ten title, the Buckeyes would need a win Wednesday coupled with a loss or draw by Maryland at Rutgers.
However, Bluem said “in his heart” he believes Maryland will likely win on Wednesday in New Brunswick, N.J., to receive the outright Big Ten title.
Despite the possibilities hanging on other games, Doyle said his only concern falls with his team defeating Michigan (6-7-3, 3-2-2) and letting the pieces fall where they may.
“We have a game to focus on and where we’ll be, we’ll see at the end of the game, I guess,” he said.
Bluem said he had a chance to watch the Wolverines’ 3-2 victory Sunday against Michigan State with the team on the bus ride home from College Park, Md., and was impressed with what he saw.
“They’re very good going forward, very spirited team, great athleticism,” Bluem said. “They’re young, so maybe that’s something that plays to our advantage a little bit. I just think they’re a pretty good team who happens to be in really good form.”
If the ramifications of OSU’s postseason play were not enough, redshirt-senior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov said playing rival Michigan gives the Buckeyes even more motivation to come out strong on Wednesday.
“There’s always that rivalry with Michigan,” Ivanov said. “All of us know about that big football rivalry, but I think all the times we’ve played them in soccer it’s been close until the end, so I think there’s also a rivalry there. We don’t like that state up north.”
Ivanov is coming off a week in which he won his fourth career Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award. The native of Strongsville, Ohio, stopped nine shots in OSU’s two games last week, though the team did not win a game in that span.
“It was an honor to be recognized by the conference,” Ivanov said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the results, but I always try to do as much as I can to keep us in the games, but we just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
The award was the third weekly Big Ten honor for an OSU player this season. Junior forward Joao Ehlers and sophomore forward Danny Jensen previously were awarded Offensive Player of the Week honors.
In order for the Buckeyes to host its quarterfinal matchup at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on Sunday, they need to finish in the top four of the conference. Beating Michigan would clinch that standing, while a draw would have to be paired with another draw in the game between Indiana and Michigan State. In that scenario, OSU would receive the fourth seed in the conference.
“Home-field advantage would be massive,” Doyle said. “We’ve been very good at home, especially in the Big Ten, but we’ve traveled a lot lately, as well, and it would be nice to relax in our own place before the game.”
OSU is 4-2-3 at home this season, including a 3-1-0 mark against conference opponents.
OSU’s is set to conclude its regular season Wednesday in Ann Arbor, Mich. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.