The No. 2-seeded Ohio State men’s soccer team begins its postseason run Thursday, taking on seventh-seeded Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament at Penn State.
The Badgers (4-12-2, 1-4-1) earned the lowest seed in the tournament after not winning a conference game until they beat Penn State 1-0 on Saturday. The Buckeyes (10-5-2, 4-2-0) defeated Wisconsin on Oct. 31, 1-0.
But coach John Bluem won’t underestimate Wisconsin and hopes his team has the same attitude heading into Thursday’s match.
“It’s always tough when you play a team for the second time, especially when it’s this close,” Bluem said. “They probably felt pretty comfortable about what they were able to accomplish in the game. They will not be a pushover, for sure. For them, the Big Ten tournament is their only salvation.”
OSU clinched the No. 2 seed in the tournament after downing the conference champion Indiana Hoosiers in an emotional game on senior day, 1-0. Senior Sam Scales said the team hopes to parlay Sunday’s performance into momentum for Thursday.
“You always build off every game, and to have an emotional win like that on senior day is the best way to send us off to the tournament,” Scales said. “It’s the competitiveness the team brings — the spirit, the passion — it’s awesome. It’s a great group of guys.”
The format of the tournament represents a new challenge for the contending teams. The championship game will be Sunday after games Thursday and Friday.
The only exception is top-seeded Indiana, who has a bye in the first round. The Hoosiers play Friday against the winner of the game between No. 4 Penn State and No. 5 Northwestern.
“That’s going to be hard. Some of our players who have been a little nicked and injured are returning to health, so we have a full complement of players, especially defensively. We’ll give it our best shot. It’s going to be a hard road,” Bluem said.
If the Buckeyes had lost Sunday, they would have garnered the No. 3 seed — meaning they would have played Michigan State to open the tournament. Bluem said the Spartans would have been tough as well, but the team just wanted the best seed possible.
The game against Wisconsin kicks off at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. If the Buckeyes prevail, they will take on the winner of the game between No. 3 Michigan and No. 6 Michigan State at 1 p.m. Friday.