Michela Paradiso saved her best for last.
Playing in her final home game for the Ohio State women’s soccer team, the senior midfielder/forward netted a career-high two goals to lift the Buckeyes over Michigan State on a rainy Wednesday evening at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
With the win 2-0 over the Spartans, OSU (10-5-3) clinched the No. 7 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which is set to begin on Sunday.
“I knew we needed this game to enter the Big Ten tournament so I just wanted to help carry my time and show them what it takes to come out on top,” Paradiso said.
The game, which was senior night for Paradiso and forwards Marisa Wolf and Katelyn Kraft, was a perfect finale for the players to end their careers in Columbus on.
OSU got on the board early on. In the third minute of play, Paradiso — an Upper Arlington, Ohio, native — possessed a corner kick from sophomore midfielder Nikki Walts and finished from 15 yards out.
With the win, the Buckeyes are 9-1 when they get on the board first on the season.
The hometown girl’s story just continued to get better.
“(Paradiso) has really found herself this year,” OSU coach Lori Walker said. “Michela’s a very serious young woman. She takes her academics seriously, she takes herself seriously and her soccer. So what I’m proud of is that she’s really found a way to enjoy everything.”
Perhaps it was the way Walker prepared Paradiso in the morning that propelled the senior to be successful on Wednesday night.
“I said to her this morning, ‘Just soak it all in because you don’t get these moments back.’ So I think for her to have those goals and help carry her team into the Big Ten tournament and what we were calling a championship game today, I’m just so proud of her,” Walker said.
In the 31st minute, Paradiso drew a penalty kick and finished to her right for her second goal of the night and her fifth of the season.
Heading into halftime, OSU led the Spartans 8-4 in shots, including 5-1 on the frame. The teams were knotted in corner kicks at two.
The Spartans brought on very physical play in the first half, and Walker said she prepared her team to stay at ease and not feed into negative energy.
The Buckeyes were unrelenting in their pressure in the second half though they sat comfortably with their two-goal lead.
“We really felt that was the biggest challenge. In soccer, a 2-0 lead is most difficult because all it takes is one goal and all of a sudden the team gets their confidence back and your team feels like they’re on their heels,” Walker said. “We just challenged them to step up and make sure that we did all of the little things again.”
Freshman goalkeeper Devon Kerr was in the net for the entire 90 minutes as opposed to the Buckeyes’ usual starter, redshirt junior Jillian McVicker,..
“Devon is such a big presence, physically. She makes great reactionary saves,” Walker said. “Devon is so young so there’s still a lot of experience that she needs to gain so for us today she really did what she needed to do.”
Walker said she could not be more proud of her team and how it rose to the challenge presented to them.
“I want them to really enjoy this moment right now while we wait to see where we’re headed,” Walker said.
The win for the Buckeyes gave them the No. 7 seed in the Big Ten tournament, which granted them a matchup with No. 2-seeded Wisconsin.
“This is what you’ve done all this work for,” Walker said. “The excitement is that we’ve gotten there and now let’s see what kind of run we can put ourselves on.”
Paradiso last appeared in the Big Ten Tournament as a freshman, so she said she is excited to return in her final year wearing the scarlet and gray.
“It feels so good,” she said. “For a lot of these girls it’s their first trip to the Big Ten (tournament), only the senior class has been there. I’m just so happy to bring back that tradition … of going to the tournament.”
OSU’s quarterfinal matchup against the Badgers is scheduled to kick off at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Madison, Wisconsin.