The Ohio State men’s soccer team has proven it can hang with just about anyone this season, and a large part of that is because of the work of senior midfielder Yianni Sarris.
Sarris leads the Buckeyes with four goals this season, breaking his previous career high of two set during his freshman year. The latest two came in the same week, against then-No. 5 Louisville and then-No. 17 Michigan State, respectively. The former proved to be the game winner en route to an OSU upset win.
“A few goals have been just being in the right spot at the right time,” Sarris said. “But my teammates get me the ball in crucial areas where I can make things happen, and from there I can just take chances. Without taking chances, nothing happens.”
Though Sarris has been a fixture of coach John Bluem’s offense for what is now his third season with the Buckeyes, his collegiate career did not begin in Columbus, but rather at Florida Gulf Coast University.
“I was a little bit stubborn at first, so I wanted to get out of the state and kind of go a little bit far from my parents and kind of do my own thing,” Sarris said.
However, Sarris, a native of Mentor, Ohio, decided after one year that the pull of coming home was too strong to resist.
“I always wanted to be a Buckeye at heart,” Sarris said. “Eventually I realized that Ohio State is the best university out there, so I’m glad that I made that decision.”
Sarris’ lone year at FGCU was not a forgettable one — the Eagles advanced to the 2011 NCAA Tournament after winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament. In the A-Sun Championship Game, Sarris saved a goal with a leaping header with just three seconds remaining that would have tied the game.
The stay in the NCAA Tournament proved brief, however, as the Eagles fell in double overtime to Central Florida, 1-0, on a goal by current Columbus Crew midfielder Kevan George, ending their run.
Sarris said he does not regret leaving the successful program, but rather wants to see OSU reach that level before his time is up.
“I don’t just want to make a run in the Big Ten Tournament, but I definitely want to make a run in the NCAA Tournament,” Sarris said. “Especially for these younger guys, I want to set the standard high for them.”
Junior Kyle Culbertson, who has started all but three games alongside Sarris in the midfield this season, said Sarris is easy to play with.
“I think he’s a great player to work alongside with,” Culbertson said. “I think his work ethic is the biggest plus that he brings, and he’s a great guy to have in the locker room as well.”
Culbertson praised the actions of Sarris on the field this season, as well.
“He just understands his role in the offensive mid-spot, knowing he has to be the one that needs to be pulling the strings and creating things in the final third, I think he’s done a good job of that,” Culbertson said.
Bluem has also been pleased with the performance of his senior, he said.
“I think he’s been playing very, very well,” Bluem said. “He’s a good attacking player. He knows where to go and when and he gets himself into good scoring positions.”
Sarris said especially as a senior, he takes it upon himself to work hard every day and set an example.
“I like to look at myself as a leader towards the young guys,” Sarris said. “I understand that how I play, the way I show up, is the way the team is going to show up as well.”
However, Sarris did acknowledge that there are aspects of his game that he could be doing better, particularly in charging toward the defender when on offense.
“I’m usually used to being in the midfield, not actually going at people, so I’d like to get going toward people a lot more,” Sarris said.
The senior has made the most of the opportunities he has received this season, leading the team in goals and points despite ranking sixth in minutes, fifth in total shots and fourth in shots on goal.
Sarris and the Buckeyes are set to return to the field Saturday to take on Wisconsin. That game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in Madison, Wis.