Ohio State (1-6-2, 0-2-0 Big Ten) begins a stretch of back-to-back home games on Sunday at noon when it welcomes Rutgers (1-6-1, 0-3-0 Big Ten) to Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
The Buckeyes enter Sunday’s matchup having dropped two of their first three Big Ten matches having lost road games at Penn State and No. 19 Michigan. Ohio State earned a double overtime scoreless draw in its only other conference match at home against Northwestern.
Rutgers comes to Columbus on a three-game losing streak both in the Big Ten and overall, after conceding matches to No. 19 Michigan, No. 5 Michigan State and Maryland.
“Rutgers, individually, they usually have some really dangerous players,”Ohio State head coach Brian Maisonneuve said. “They’re usually pretty athletic, good going forward. They’re a dangerous team to play and just looking at some of their results, they’ve played a tough schedule and they’ve done well.”
The Scarlet Knights are lead on offensive by their leading goal scorer, junior forward Jordan Hall, who has scored four goals this season, accounting for half of the team total.
In goal, the Scarlet Knights have struggled to find consistency. Senior goalkeeper Rafael Pereira has seen most of the action in net for Rutgers, holding a 2.66 goals against average with a save percentage standing at 55.3 percent.
Part of the lack of consistency has to do with having to face high quality attacks such as Michigan and Michigan State, with another part of that equation being Rutgers’ two goalkeepers combining to give up eight goals to Elon.
Ohio State is coming off of a 3-1 loss to Michigan on Tuesday, and will have to look to move past that if they want to, not only move up the standings, but to also continue to raise their level of play as the season marches on.
Defensively, the Buckeyes have been relatively stout throughout the season, and will need to rebound after a tough outing in Ann Arbor.
Maisonneuve cited a momentary breakdown in the defensive shape and a lapse in transition as the reasons for the first and third Wolverine goals, respectively.
“The second goal, I mean we just watched it on video, I mean that can’t happen. [Michigan sophomore forward Umar Farouk Osman] shoots it from 22 [yards], we had four guys behind the ball and he beat all four of us to the rebound, which, again, is unacceptable,” Maisonneuve said. “Our team defending, from a shape standpoint, we were talking about it and looking at it, I mean was pretty darn good. A lot of it was the principle stuff that we’ve talked about from day one, that is coming it just takes some time.”
Offensively, the Buckeyes are beginning to find the back of the net, with senior forward Michael Prosuk scoring his first goal of the season on Tuesday.
“Especially on the offensive side with us moving forward we’re having chances,” Prosuk said. “Everyday in training, we’re making it worthwhile, so I think we’ve got it the next couple games, I think we’ve got it in the bag. So I think it’s going to be a good test for us and we’re ready to take it.”
The Buckeyes are starting to get healthy after they have battled through injuries throughout the year, and an illness as well.
Maisonneuve said that redshirt freshmen forward Devyn Etling is fully cleared after missing matches earlier in the year and senior defender Alex Nichols is working his way back into practicing with the team following a concussion.
“Alex is back for the first time since his concussion. Now whether he can play or not, he’s back in training, see how he feels, it’s the first he’s really able to get into even numbers training,” Maisonneuve said. “He’s done a little technical work, a little bit of possession but he finally got in a little competitive stuff.”
The Buckeyes will take on Rutgers at noon on Sunday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.