Andy Gottesman / The Lantern
Off to the best start in program history, the Ohio State men’s soccer team will now face its toughest test of the season.
“This team has been playing well and with a lot of confidence,” coach John Bluem said. “It’s nice to have a good start like this.”
Coming off a 1-0 win against Michigan State, the Big Ten-leading Buckeyes (5-0-3) will now face the consensus No. 1-ranked team in college soccer, the Akron Zips.
The Zips (7-0-0) are off to their best start since 2005, and it’s their second-best start since 1972. Akron’s organization on both sides of the ball contributes to the team’s success.
The Zips’ ball pressure and attacking skills also make them a dangerous team to play, Bluem said. They are a few of the reasons why the team is 7-0 and ranked No. 1 in the nation.
“They’re terrific,” Bluem said. “Their speed of play and quality of players is something I don’t think we’ve faced yet this year. We’re going to have to be at our very best to stay close to them.”
Akron is no stranger to big games. So far they have faced two highly ranked teams this season and have come away with two victories.
The two teams are familiar; they played twice last season, once in the regular season and then in the second round of the NCAA College Cup. Both games ended in a loss for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes and the Zips know the other’s tendencies, strengths and weaknesses. The young OSU team looks to capitalize on that knowledge to get a victory that has eluded them for the past three years.
The game is set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Lee Jackson Field.
The Buckeyes have been getting tremendous play out of redshirt freshman goalie Matt Lampson, who earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors after recording back-to-back shutouts.
The Buckeyes will once again ask him to shut down the powerful Akron offense. The Zips’ offense has scored 20 goals in the season, and the defense has allowed only one.
One thing is for sure: The Buckeyes have a tough task ahead of them. But ask anyone on the team, and they will say they are ready for the challenge.
“The opportunity to play the consensus No. 1 team in the country is fantastic,” Bluem said. “We’ve got nothing to lose. We can go up there relaxed and give it our best shot.”