With a true freshman playing in goal for the Ohio State women’s soccer team (8-2-1, 2-0-0), an experienced defense and ‘no-shots’ approach has propelled the Buckeyes to the top of the Big Ten standings.
Goalkeeper Rachel Middleman currently ranks second in the Big Ten in goals against average, letting in only .33 percent of shots. According to head coach Lori Walker, it’s the play of the defense in front of Middleman that has helped make the transition to collegiate ball trouble-free for the true freshman.
“They’ve got a strong no-shot mentality and I think that helps make Rachel’s job a lot easier as a freshman,” Walker said. “I know that the saves that we’re going to ask her to make are going to either be simple saves or game-winning saves. There’s not going to be that kind of in-between thing where we really need to lean on her to be a difference-maker at this point, which is what you want from your freshmen.”
The Buckeye defense is led by a trio of senior captains Cassie Dickerson, Lauren Beachy, and Danielle Scoliere.
“Our defense is old and mature and we’ve played together for three years, so I just think we really know each other well,” Beachy said. “We have a ton of chemistry and stress a no-shot mentality. We just play together as hard as we can and we know what works for us.”
That no-shot mentality has put the Buckeyes at the top of most Big Ten statistical categories, including goals allowed where they rank second with six, and goals against per game average where they rank third with .53. Of the Buckeye’s 11 games, six of them have been shutouts and only once have they given up more than one goal in a game.
“That’s the biggest thing that we can contribute to the game, our hard work and our tough defense,” Dickerson said. “If we can shut them down, that gives our forwards a much greater chance. Usually the margin in the Big Ten wins is by a goal each game. We’re not going to win 3-0 or 4-0, it’s always going to be 1-0 or 2-1, so if we do our job it gives us a great chance to win.”
Dickerson is a three-time captain for the Buckeyes and the second player in Ohio State women’s soccer history to be named to the Hermann Trophy watch list. The Hermann Trophy is awarded each season to the top male and female players in college soccer.
“It’s something that I carry on my shoulders and take pride in,” Dickerson said. “It’s an honor to be a captain, so it’s just something that just comes out of me naturally and I think that when you have people who are willing to follow, it’s an easy role to do.”
According to Beachy, help from the team’s offense has been a welcome addition this season.
“Our offense is really clicking and that hasn’t always happened,” Beachy said. “As long as we keep those shutouts coming, I think that we always have a really good chance.”
Both of the OSU’s Big Ten wins this season have come in shutouts, including a 2-0 win over Michigan and 1-0 overtime win against Penn State. The Buckeyes know that they’ll need to keep up their strong defensive pace to have success through the rest of the Big Ten schedule.
“Our defense knows that a mistake that they make could really cost us and so while we don’t ask them to play perfect games, they do a great job of minimizing what those mistakes are that they make,” Walker said. “There’s a nice confidence and a nice aura about our backline, and so it’s just kind of contagious. So when they do make a mistake, they carry that weight and don’t just place it on one individual.”