Following up an upset victory is never easy, especially against another top opponent, but the Ohio State men’s soccer team looks to do just that when it hosts No. 14 Michigan State on Saturday.
That game comes just four days after the Buckeyes (3-3-3, 1-1-0) shocked then-No. 5 Louisville on the road. A goal by senior midfielder Yianni Sarris late in the first half proved to be all it took to take down the Cardinals, 1-0.
“It’s a huge win for our team after falling short in our last three matches,” Sarris said after Tuesday’s game in a release. “It was an all-around team effort and I’m proud of our guys with the way we battled today.”
It does not appear to be getting much easier for the Buckeyes following that win, as they are set to take on teams ranked in the top-15 in two of their next three games, including the Spartans on Saturday.
OSU coach John Bluem had high praise for the Spartans, who he said are the second-best team in the Big Ten behind Penn State.
“I’ve always felt that Michigan State the last couple years has been really, really good, and they are again this year,” Bluem said.
Saturday’s game will finish off a stretch of four games in 10 days for the Buckeyes. Redshirt-senior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov said it has been “very physically taxing,” but the coaches are working to keep them fresh.
“(Sunday) we had a good ice bath session and we’re keeping it nice and easy to get our legs back from under us,” Ivanov said. “So I think we’re good moving forward from now.”
Junior midfielder and co-captain Zach Mason also credited the athletic department for helping them stay sharp physically.
“It’s important to just do anything you can for your body, getting as much sleep as you can, a good diet,” Mason said. “The athletic department has really helped us out with that. We get some meals and stuff here and there. It’s great. So I think we just have to take the right steps and know what you can handle.”
Bluem said while he intends to use more substitutions during games as the season wears on, he makes those decisions situationally. In each of OSU’s last two games, three substitutions were used.
“We just feel like the way the game is going, if guys are OK, where it’s maybe going to show more is the next night if we don’t give these guys some rest at some point in time,” Bluem said. “We’re trying to manage the load a little bit for everybody, and practices will be a little lighter.”
The Spartans (5-1-2, 1-0-1) are notable for their overwhelming defense. In fact, MSU has only allowed one goal in its eight matches this year.
The team is led by reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, goalkeeper Zach Bennett. The junior ranks second in the nation in goals against average at 0.118 and in save percentage at .952.
However, as Bluem also said before OSU’s game at Louisville, he does not feel the team will roll over against the Spartans.
“I don’t think there’s any team on our schedule that is so significantly better than us that we would go into the game thinking we have no chance to win,” Bluem said. “I think we have a chance to win every game on our schedule.”
OSU’s matchup against Michigan State is scheduled to kick off Saturday at 7 p.m. at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.