The Ohio State men’s soccer team will play for the Big Ten title against its biggest conference rival in the regular-season finale on Wednesday, when the Buckeyes are set to host Michigan at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
The game against Michigan (8-4-4, 3-2-2) will arguably be the biggest game of the season for OSU (10-5-2, 4-2-1) because it will play a major role in determining who takes away the regular-season Big Ten title.
“Our coach has been telling us all season to just take it one game at a time,” junior forward Yaw Amankwa said. “We look forward to the next game and will prepare the same way. It’s just another game and we will do whatever we can to win.”
OSU started off the season in dismal fashion, notching just two wins in seven games. But things changed halfway through the season for the Scarlet and Gray, as it rattled off a 10-game unbeaten streak to leap to the top of the conference standings.
“We worked so hard to get here,” Amankwa said. “At the beginning of the season no one thought we could do it and it just feels good to prove people wrong.”
The Buckeyes sit at No. 1 in the Big Ten standings with 13 points, followed by Rutgers and Northwestern with 12 points each. Michigan sits in fourth place but still with a chance to grab the top seed with 11 points. Losses by OSU, Rutgers and Northwestern would give the Wolverines the crown.
Rutgers is set to face Maryland on Wednesday, while Northwestern is scheduled to take on Wisconsin. The Scarlet Knights would win the conference with a win and OSU loss, as they hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Wildcats.
Rutgers was able to slash OSU’s win streak on Oct. 25, putting the Scarlet Knights at No. 1 in the conference. The Scarlet and Gray bounced back on Saturday, however, defeating Maryland and jumping right back up to the top spot in the standings.
The Buckeyes plan to keep that momentum going against Michigan to claim the Big Ten title.
“To be in the position Wednesday night to play for the championship is great,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “But you got to win the game, and so we’ll prepare for the game like we’ve prepared for games all year long, and we’ll try to do the same things.”
The Buckeyes hope to defeat Michigan on Wednesday, not only to claim the Big Ten title but also to have a favorable matchup in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals.
“We hope to finish strong and win on Wednesday night, and we’re going to hope to get a good seed so we get to play a quarterfinal game here at home,” Bluem said. “But it’s one game at a time.”
The top four seeds in the conference play home quarterfinal games. The Buckeyes have clinched a top-four spot as they hold the tiebreaker with current No. 5 seed Indiana, which can tie OSU’s 13 points with a win and OSU loss. The Buckeyes defeated the Hoosiers in Bloomington, Indiana, on Oct. 10, 1-0.
A peek at Michigan
Michigan will be entering Wednesday’s match coming off a 1-0 shutout victory against in-state rival Michigan State.
Freshmen midfielder Francis Atuahene, who leads the Big Ten in shots per game, has paced Michigan this season with 10 goals and three assists, followed by redshirt senior midfielder Colin McAtee with five goals and two assists. Senior forward William Mellors-Blair has chipped in three goals and four helpers.
In goal, sophomore goalkeeper Evan Louro has played a total of 1,533 minutes and leads the conference in save percentage with a mark of .821. His goals-against average of .70 is also tops in the Big Ten.
Awards keep coming
For the third time during OSU’s surprise season, its players have swept the Big Ten weekly awards.
After netting a game-winning goal against Maryland last week, Amankwa was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career. The junior college transfer, who is in his first season with the Buckeyes, has a pair of goals and two assists on the year.
Senior goalkeeper Chris Froschauer’s suffocating senior season continues. After picking up his conference-leading eighth clean sheet against the Terrapins last week, the transfer from Dayton earned his fourth Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award.
Froschauer — who saved five shots against Maryland to improve his save percentage to .808, second in the Big Ten — is the fourth player in conference history to win the award four times in one season.
Overall, there have been seven times a Buckeye has won a weekly award this fall.
The Buckeyes will host their first opponent in the Big Ten tournament on Sunday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The time and opponent will be determined after Wednesday’s slate of games.