After advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in dramatic fashion, it is understandable to experience a sort of emotional high.
Many coaches might try to temper those feelings, and get their team to simply look ahead to the next one.
Ohio State men’s soccer coach John Bluem, on the other hand, wants his players to ride that momentum all the way to South Bend, Ind.
“I think it’s good to have it (the emotional high). I think it’s good to just feel great about yourselves after a win like that,” Bluem said.
After tying Akron, 1-1, following two overtime periods Thursday night, OSU advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in extraordinary fashion: winning a 15-round penalty kick shootout.
“It was an awesome game,” freshman forward Marcus McCrary said. “Everyone was just super excited when we won the game, we all jumped around. Everybody was just ecstatic, it was a top game that night I was able to compete in.”
Junior midfielder Zach Mason scored in the 15th round of the shootout to clinch the 13-12 penalty kick victory. The co-captain said after the game that he could not believe how long the shootout lasted.
“It was just getting to the point where we were like ‘something’s got to happen, or we’re going to be out here all night,’” Mason said. “But it was exciting that we were able to come out on top after that.”
OSU’s reward for moving past Akron is meeting the defending national champions and No. 1 seed in the tournament, Notre Dame. The Buckeyes faced Notre Dame in an exhibition game last season on Aug. 26, 2013, something sophomore defender Tyler Kidwell said he does not look back on too fondly.
“Last year we played them preseason, and it was probably the biggest domination game I’ve ever been a part of,” Kidwell said. “They had a bunch of shots on us, we couldn’t really get the ball moving or anything.”
OSU was outshot by the Fighting Irish 25-6 in that game and lost, 1-0.
Bluem said OSU’s difficult regular season schedule this year, which included matchups against teams that eventually made the tournament in 10 out of OSU’s 18 games, prepared it for the challenge against Notre Dame.
“One thing you have to do in games like this is play for 90 minutes,” Bluem said. “You can’t have lapses, you can’t take breaks in the game, you can’t go to sleep for periods in the game, because you’ll get punished.
“So when you’re playing high-level, good teams during the regular season a lot like we have this year, your players are able to focus mentally better throughout the game.”
Notre Dame features a dangerous, balanced attack, with 11 different players netting a goal this season. Mason said it will be a challenge for the Buckeyes to deal with so many offensive threats.
“They’re a very organized team, dynamic, many pieces that can provide goals for them,” Mason said. “I just think we’re going to have to be clicked on 100 percent, and play our best game.”
Kidwell said he believes that OSU has the capabilities to hang with the Irish.
“If we can not let them control too much of the game, and hopefully our back line can hold solid as it has been, we should have a really good shot going in there.”
OSU’s second-round matchup against Notre Dame is set to kick off at 7 p.m. on Sunday.