Toward the end of its season, the Ohio State men’s soccer team had one focus leading up to the Big Ten tournament: secure a home quarterfinal match.
For the Buckeyes, playing at home had equated to greater success both this season and historically, with less prosperity away from Columbus. OSU had been almost an entirely different team while on the road.
“Going on the road is very difficult,” OSU coach John Bluem said. “We know that, and we try to prepare for it. It should be easier to win at home. I think we have a really good, strong mentality about making sure we defend our home field.”
With a loss against Wisconsin in the final game of the regular season, OSU fell to the sixth seed in the Big Ten tournament, forcing it to play the quarterfinal match on the road back in Madison.
The quarterfinal match in Madison over the weekend provided a difficult roadblock in the Buckeyes aspirations of taking home the Big Ten title,and the result matched season-long trends of home and away splits.
OSU fell to Wisconsin 3-0 in the quarterfinal match of the Big Ten tournament to end its 2016 campaign.
This year, OSU finished the season with a 4-5-1 record at home. While that does not seem to be a stellar mark, it is a big upgrade from its away record of 1-8-0.
One of the biggest reasons for this disparity had been the Buckeyes inability to score on the road.
Bluem’s squad found the back of the net 15 times through their 10 games at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, good for a 1.5 goals per game average on their home turf. On the road, however, they were only able to score six times through nine games, good for only 0.67 goals per game.
Senior forward Danny Jensen, the team’s active career leader in points, scored 14 of his 19 career goals on his home field.
“On the road sometimes we make stupid mistakes,” Jensen said. “We let the pressure get to us a bit. I think we are very confident at home, which helps a lot.”
OSU has typically been able to dominate its opponents when they come to Columbus, outscoring opponents 65-37 at home since the start of the 2013 season.
The Buckeyes really established their home dominance a season ago, breaking a school record with 10 victories at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Before this year, OSU won at least six games in Columbus for four straight seasons.
All-time, the Scarlet and Gray have played to a 107-44-26 record on their home field. Through the past three seasons, the Buckeyes have garnered a 19-8-7 record at home, while going just 7-18-2 away.
“You always want to protect your house and that’s what we have been doing,” said senior defender Austin Bergstrom. “As far as getting on the road and getting a win I think it starts with just preparing that entire week beforehand and making sure we are ready to go. That’s on us as players to be ready, especially the day of — having — that focus and mentality that we are going to come out and win.”
In the end, the road struggles for the Buckeyes proved to be too big a hurdle, as they were knocked out of the Big Ten tournament in Madison, bringing their disappointing season to an end.