Coming off two draws in its opening weekend, the Ohio State men’s soccer team is set to hit the road in search of its first win.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to head to Wilmington, N.C., to take on University of North Carolina-Wilmington and Elon University as part of the UNC-Wilmington Soccer Classic.
Tournament play is already familiar territory for the Buckeyes (0-0-2) this season. They battled to a scoreless draw in double overtime against the University of California-Davis on Friday before seeing a similar result two days later against Butler, 2-2, at the Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic in Columbus.
“Our passion moving forward will be good. Just to stick with it and not give up,” senior defender Konrad Kucharski said. “We went into the two overtimes, so that was definitely tough, but we didn’t give up and we kept battling through.”
Though the team still gets one point for each of the two draws, some players and coaches said they feel it is paramount to get that first victory.
“We need two wins this weekend,” sophomore forward Danny Jensen said. “That’s basically all that’s on our mind right now.”
The two games over the weekend are the first of nine contests away from Columbus this season. Last year, the Buckeyes went 0-4-2 on the road.
“It will be a little more difficult (on the road), because not sleeping in your own bed, traveling, it all takes a toll on your body,” Jensen said. “But we’ll be fine.”
After failing to score a goal until more than 175 minutes of total game time had passed over the weekend, improving the fluidity of the offense continues to be the focal point in practice.
“(We need to work on) overall, moving the ball forward quicker a little bit. We could’ve moved the ball quicker than we did in the past two games,” Kucharski said. “Going forward, we need to increase our shots … If we can get a few more shots and get some more half-chances, we’ll increase our chances of scoring some more goals.”
Coach John Bluem said the Buckeyes are trying several methods in practice to increase goal-scoring opportunities, such as moving players to different roles in the attack, practicing the repetition of passes and movement in front of the box and working on improving team defense to lead to a better offense.
OSU has history with the team it’s set to face this weekend — the Buckeyes played UNC-Wilmington (2-0-0) in last season’s regular season opening game. The team fell to the Seahawks, 2-1, in double overtime.
Bluem said having seen the opposition last season will help him prepare the team for Friday night’s contest.
“We know UNC-Wilmington is a big, strong team, very athletic team, difficult to play against,” Bluem said. “We know we’ll have to match that.”
Elon (1-1-0) presents a more unfamiliar foe, but Bluem said he would use the Phoenix’s Friday game against Winthrop to scout his team’s Sunday opponent.
OSU is set to play UNC-Wilmington on Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Elon on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
After the weekend tournament, OSU is scheduled to return home to open Big Ten play against Northwestern on Sept. 14. That game is set to begin at 1 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.