Cody Cousino / Lantern photographer
Heading into the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State women’s soccer goalkeeper Katie Baumgardner had never won a shootout in her entire soccer career. She couldn’t have picked a better time to win her first.
“I’ve been in a lot of them, but most of the girls know that, and we talked about it a lot,” Baumgardner said.
“Everyone was mentally prepared to go into it, and I certainly had been thinking about it in the second half so I think I was more than prepared to step into that role.”
Baumgardner’s block on Dayton’s Juliana Libertin’s penalty kick attempt Sunday not only gave her the first shootout win of her career, but it also sealed a 4-2 shootout victory over Dayton, sending OSU to its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2004.
“I told them I was going to get one for them, and it ended up working out,” Baumgardner said. “It felt good. I mean once she kicked it, you pretty much know if you’re going to make the save or not.”
The shootout victory was just the latest triumph this season for the junior from Sterling, Va.
Heading into this season, Baumgardner appeared to be the favorite to fill the void in goal left by the graduation of four-year starter Lauren Robertson. But at the start of the season, she found herself behind true freshman Rachel Middleman on the OSU depth chart.
“She came in a little bit slow and she admitted that,” coach Lori Walker said.
Middleman recorded six shutouts and saved 81 percent of shots taken against her as she started 17 games in a freshman campaign that led to her being named to the All-Big Ten freshman team. It was only after Middleman hit a freshman wall that Walker decided to make the switch to Baumgardner.
Middleman “did some great things early on, and then Rachel kind of hit her midseason stride and had some problems and had some ups and downs, and we made a switch,” Walker said.
Baumgardner has made the most of the opportunity, having given up only one goal in her four starts since being inserted in the starting lineup. Her effort in the Buckeyes’ 1-0 win over Michigan State on Nov. 5, which clinched the first share of a Big Ten title in program history, was rewarded when she was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Week.
She has yet to let a ball get by her in either of OSU’s first two tournament games.
“Our defense always does a good job of making my job pretty easy,” Baumgardner said.
The No. 3-seeded Buckeyes will continue to rely on the steady play of their defense as they head to Virginia for their Sweet 16 matchup with the No. 2-seeded Virginia Cavaliers.
Walker said she’s excited to see how her team matches up with an opponent from the ACC, which is considered a premier conference in women’s soccer.
“It’s a team that I know very well,” Walker said. “We are a Big Ten team with a Big Ten mentality, but yet with ACC flair.”
With the No. 1 seed in OSU’s region, Maryland, eliminated against Georgetown last weekend, a Sweet 16 victory for the Buckeyes would send them back home to Columbus to host an Elite Eight matchup against the winner of the game between Georgetown and Minnesota.