With the season two-thirds complete, the Ohio State men’s soccer team’s robust schedule has helped bring the team close to the top of the RPI standings. But in the midst of a strong campaign, head coach John Bluem still believes there is plenty of room for improvement
“I’d probably give them a ‘B,'” Bluem said. “All three matches we lost, I think we could have won. I think we hurt ourselves with our own mistakes. So as you go down the stretch here you got to limit the mistakes.”
At No. 4 in RPI standings, OSU (6-4-2) is looking to line itself up for a favorable seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The RPI standings take into consideration a team’s winning percentage and the winning percentage of its opponents.
With four matches left, including three Big Ten contests plus the conference championship, there’s still plenty of time for things to change.
With quality performances against some of the country’s best teams, including ties to previously ranked No. 8 Louisville and No. 1 Akron, along with a victory over No. 11 Michigan State, the Buckeyes have proven they can run with anyone. Players said the key is embracing that confidence going forward.
“It gives the confidence of knowing that we can play against some of the best teams … in the nation. But it also lets us know that we could do better. There were a lot of things in those games could have gone different way and we know that working hard, maybe we could have won those games,” sophomore forward Chris Hegngi said.
While OSU is undefeated in four matches at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium this season, the team is 3-4-1 in games away from Columbus. After Wednesday’s loss, 1-0, to University of Illinois at Chicago, four of the next five home games will be at home.
Following four straight match wins, the Buckeyes dropped two consecutive games. For a team that’s played well against quality opponents to that point, OSU believes getting served a slice of humble pie will help finish the season strong.
“Anyone’s beatable,” said Austin McAnena, reigning Big Ten Player of the Week. “Northwestern hasn’t had a great season, but they’re a hard working team. Basically anyone in the Big Ten can win at any given time. It’s kind of a wakeup call, too.”
Bluem said for the team to finish the regular season where it wants to, his players would need to maintain the right mindset for the entirety of the game, not just crunch time. While the Buckeyes are a strong defensive club, they struggle to score at times causing Bluem and his staff to experiment with different lineups.
“We’re right about where I thought we would be. We have had a very difficult strength of schedule this year,” Bluem said prior to Wednesday’s loss. “I think we’re pretty well positioned to move forward into these final (five) games.
“I’m proud of what the guys have achieved so far, but at the same time, we still have work to do.”