Ohio State women’s soccer forward Sammy Edwards had been searching for her chance all night at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The sophomore came out firing on Saturday night against the Butler Bulldogs, but her game-high three first-half shot attempts all came up short.
Frustration was building up, but Edwards would finally get her shot at redemption, even if it came after nearly 107 minutes of playing time. In the second overtime, Edwards pushed the frustration to the back of her mind and the net, sending her team to the second round with a goal in the 107th minute for the 2-1 victory.
“As (the players’) frustration was going up, they had to get their communication higher and just continue to press and believe that the more opportunities we create, one of them has got to fall,” OSU coach Lori Walker said.
OSU (12-6-3) immediately went on the offensive as soon as the game commenced, eager for a postseason victory. Buckeye junior forward Lindsey Agnew attempted the team’s first shot in the 13th minute off of a Nichelle Prince corner kick. Agnew’s shot was blocked, but Edwards countered with an attempt from 12 yards which sailed just over the top of the goalpost.
“To have that kind of possession and to have the opportunities we did in the first half and then not feel like we converted, it’s very easy to fall into a level of frustration,” Walker said.
The Buckeyes contained the game to Butler’s (16-7-1) side of the field for a majority of the first half. Prince continued to create shots on goal with her heads-up crosses to her forward counterparts. Edwards also had another early opportunity at breaking the deadlock, but she missed over the top on a volley from eight yards out.
It was the relentless three-headed attack consisting of Prince, Agnew and Edwards that continually pushed the Buckeyes downfield. The selfish style of play by Prince, who led the Buckeyes with 77 shot attempts entering the tournament, kept the home team on track despite the threat of frustration building up.
Both the Buckeyes and the Bulldogs had opportunities to enter halftime with a lead. Strikes on goal by OSU senior midfielder Michela Paradiso at the 35th minute and Butler sophomore defender Maria Collica at the 37th minute nearly changed the course of the game. The Buckeyes took an 8-5 shot lead into the half, although Butler held a slight 2-1 edge with shots on goal.
“I was just beating myself up over the misses in the first half, but I didn’t let it get to my head too much,” Edwards said.
Although OSU seemed in control throughout the first 45 minutes of play, Butler opened the half with the same aggression that the Buckeyes began the contest with. The OSU women did not fold, answering with a few subsequent trips downfield that nearly resulted in scores.
Prince decided to get in on the assertive Buckeye action after playing the distributor role in the first half, attempting shots from six and eight yards out at the 52nd and 62nd minute marks, respectively. However, OSU continued to be inches away from moving the scoreboard.
It was not until redshirt junior defender Morgan Wolcott, who had entered Saturday’s game having taken just two shots on goal for the season, recorded possibly the most important goal of her career. Wolcott broke the nil-nil game in the 86th minute with a tap that pushed the ball just inside the right post.
“To get a goal that helps us advance further in the NCAAs is big time,” Wolcott said.
Minutes later, the energy was almost completely taken out of the Buckeye women. Seconds away from moving on to the second round, Butler senior midfielder Sophia Maccagnone squeezed a free kick just past OSU redshirt junior goalie Jillian McVicker inside the right post.
“It’s just similar to our entire season,” Maccagnone said. “We don’t want to stop fighting.”
Thinking that they were about to capture the most important victory of the season, the Buckeyes would need to come together on the field and in their minds to prevent Butler from stealing a win.
“We kind of all just took a deep breath and reengaged in what we had to do,” Edwards said. “We have been through so much adversity, so just throwing that at us is just another thing we can handle.”
That opportunity came in the second overtime when Edwards followed up a miss at the 103rd minute with the game-winner with less than four minutes to go in the final extra period.
“I’m very proud of my team and the energy they found in overtime to find a way to win,” Walker said. “We’ve certainly been in overtime many times this year, and I think that gave us a little confidence to get the job done.”
The Buckeyes are next scheduled to play the fourth-seeded Virginia Tech Hokies (15-3-2) in the second round of the NCAA tournament on Friday at 3 p.m. in State College, Pennsylvania.