Andy Gottesman / The Lantern
Although any competition between Ohio State and Michigan is synonymous with the word “rivalry,” it is the match after its annual showdown with the Wolverines that the OSU women’s soccer team (7-2-1, 1-0-0 Big Ten) is looking forward to most this season.
“From a soccer perspective, Penn State is the team that we respect the most,” coach Lori Walker said. “If we’re going to call somebody a rival, as far as from a soccer perspective, on the women’s side, I’d definitely say that it’s Penn State.”
However, just because the Buckeyes consider Penn State (3-6-1, 1-0-0) to be their chief rival doesn’t mean they don’t have any love lost with the Wolverines.
“I just don’t like Michigan,” junior forward Paige Maxwell said. “They kind of give me the creeps.”
Maxwell scored the game-winning goal in a 2-0 win over Michigan to open conference play last Saturday and was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for her effort.
“Paige has got so many great qualities to her,” Walker said. “She’s so dangerous in the air and she’s really made a mark in our conference scoring goals with her head, so I was really happy for her that she found a game-winning goal using her feet.”
Although Maxwell is excited about the award, she said she doesn’t necessarily view it as an individual one.
“I can’t be more proud of the team, we’ve all been working really hard, and it’s my job to finish and my job to work hard,” Maxwell said. “Getting Offensive Player of the Week, it feels like the whole team deserves it.”
Maxwell is the fourth Buckeye to be recognized with a weekly Big Ten honor this season.
“We have so many talented people that come out and work consistently,” junior midfielder and forward Caitlyn Martin said. “We’re always fighting and competing against each other, and I think that shows on the field.”
Martin was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week earlier this season.
One of the main reasons the Buckeyes are looking forward to Sunday’s matchup with Penn State is the Nittany Lions’ recent success in the league. Penn State has won the last 12 Big Ten regular season titles.
“You have to respect that,” Walker said. “We just have the utmost respect for them and we always make sure we bring our ‘A’ game.”
Maxwell agreed that Penn State’s abilities on the field separate it from the rest of the league.
“With Penn State, you know it’s just going to be a straight-up soccer game,” Maxwell said. “Their talent is going to show throughout the entire game.”
Sunday’s match will be the first of two OSU women’s soccer games to be televised on the Big Ten Network this season, but the Buckeyes are more worried about improving to 2-0 in conference play and beating the team they call their true rival.
“It’s definitely exciting, but we’re just really focused on the Big Ten and Penn State,” Martin said. “It’s a really big game.”