The senior members of the Ohio State women’s soccer team will have a chip on their shoulder as they head north to Ann Arbor this Saturday.
The Buckeyes (9-5-3, 3-3-3 Big Ten) face off versus the Michigan Wolverines (9-3-3, 5-2-2 Big Ten) at 7:30 p.m. in a rivalry game that has not been played in Columbus in four straight seasons.
“This is unfortunate that this senior class has never been able to play Michigan at home in their four-year career,” coach Lori Walker said with a tone of slight frustration. “And that’s a little added feel for us. We’ll just go up there and play as if it’s our home game.”
Coach Walker made it a point this week to not complain about the situation, move on and put the best foot forward to come home with a win.
Michigan has been a solid team this season, though it has hit a bit of a slump in its past four games, with losses to Illinois and Northwestern and ties with Wisconsin and Minnesota.
OSU’s focus in practice this week was centered around putting the pieces together both on defense and offense. Senior forward Nichelle Prince emphasized this focus during practice this week.
“We’re not trying to change a lot of things,” Prince said. “We want to stick to our own game plan, but it’s just sharpening up a few of the small details.”
Prince leads the Buckeyes with 53 total shots on the season, and plays a key role in the offensive attack for OSU. Prince emphasized her main goal for the matchup against Michigan as being to finish on opportunities presented during offensive attack.
Coach Walker noted offensive and defensive tactics that are key to success versus Michigan Saturday night.
“Having great offensive pressure and putting it on Michigan, as well as maintaining really good defensive shape and defensive transition, is the most important thing,” Walker said.
Sophomore goalkeeper Devon Kerr had her first start of the season against Rutgers last Sunday, completing a shutout of the strong Rutgers offense. Kerr is set to start again Saturday, and with recognition of her growth in play and maturity coming from her coach.
“Her ability to make saves is tremendous,” Walker said. “She is fearless catching crosses — there’s so many qualities about her that help us.”
Kerr became the third goalkeeper for OSU to start a game this season, as redshirt senior Jillian McVicker’s early-season injury led to an opportunity for redshirt junior Megan Deldernick to step up.
“Megan has done a fantastic job for us in stepping in in the situation with McVicker,” Walker said. “I don’t know that there’s another team in the country that has three goalkeepers as capable as we do, and that is something that I’m proud of.”
Prince expressed excitement for the matchup against the Wolverines, keeping in the back of her mind that she has yet to mark a victory against Michigan, while focusing on postseason implications.
“It is Ohio State and Michigan,” Prince said. “But it is also for our season and where we want to go for postseason. It’s going to be an intense game, but it will be fun.”