Andy Gottesman / The Lantern
After getting off to a slow start in 2008, the Ohio State women’s soccer team has done just the opposite in 2009.
Nine games into their season, with the non-conference schedule complete, the Buckeyes are playing well and are getting prepared for Big Ten play. Coach Lori Walker credits the hard work and dedication in the offseason as the reason for the great start.
“The biggest thing was our preparation in preseason,” Walker said. “Our team came in extremely fit and that’s allowed us to have high expectations for our game.”
The Buckeyes have gotten off to a solid 7-1-1 start, having navigated through a tough West Coast trip in which they won three games. On the trip out west they knocked off No. 14 San Diego and won an overtime thriller against UNLV.
“[The West Coast trip] was a relaxed atmosphere,” Walker said. “We were able to train a little but our focus was playing some really quality soccer.”
OSU opened its season against Bowling Green with a 2-0 win. They followed that victory with a tie against West Virginia and a loss to Pittsburgh. After posting a 1-1-1 record, the team headed off for a three-game road trip.
OSU finished off their non-conference schedule with wins against Youngstown State, North Texas and Toledo. The win last Sunday against Toledo was the Buckeyes’ sixth consecutive win and third consecutive shutout.
The team’s offense has been producing plenty of opportunities. The Buckeyes top the Big Ten in shots on goal and in points. They are averaging about 2.3 goals per game, but Walker knows the key comes from good defense.
“We create our offense from solid defending and we want to put the ball in good places so we can give our attackers good opportunities to be able to score,” she said.
Leading the way for the Buckeye offense is sophomore forward Paige Maxwell, who was the leading scorer for the team in 2008. She has picked up where she left off last season with five goals so far in ’09.
“As a team we’ve been working really hard and my job is to put away the goals, so that’s what I’ve been trying to do,” Maxwell said. “Luckily it’s been happening for me.”
Maxwell is just the second Buckeye in history to record multiple three-goal games.
As with the offense, the Buckeye defense has been rock solid at the start of the year. The defense is led by senior goalkeeper Lauren “Taz” Robertson who sits second in the Big Ten with a 0.55 goals against average.
She refuses to give up goals, giving up just four on the season and putting her team in a position to win each and every game. She also leads the conference with six shutouts on the season.
It took only eight games before the senior broke the OSU record for most shutouts with 23.
OSU will now turn its attention to the Big Ten as the Bucks open conference play when they host Michigan Sunday at 1 p.m.