Ohio State sophomore defender Izzy Rodriguez (9) passes the ball upfield in the second half of the game against Florida Gulf Coast University on Sept. 7. Credit: Casey Cascaldo | Photo Editor

Playing college soccer miles away from her hometown state, sophomore defender Izzy Rodriguez continues to thrive in her second season at Ohio State.

At the start of last year, the Michigan native made her way to Columbus, Ohio, to be a part of the Ohio State women’s soccer team, where she has received a great deal of support from the players on her team.

Senior goalkeeper Devon Kerr said Rodriguez always supports her and her fellow teammates.

“She’s always there for you,” Kerr said. “Helping you when people make mistakes or when you’re down, and constantly encouraging you and giving you the proper information you need to win the game on and off the field.”

With a season full of ups and downs after a slow start to the season, the Buckeyes still needed to get back on the right track following a 2-0 defeat against Illinois.  

Shortly after, Rodriguez notched the game-winning goal for the Buckeyes against then-No. 21 Northwestern in overtime, ultimately lifting the Buckeyes over the Wildcats 1-0. She earned Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for her performance.

The Buckeye sophomore said the recognition she received from the conference remains a great achievement for her, especially alongside all the players helping her on the Ohio State defensive line.

“It’s awesome that our defensive work is being honored,” Rodriguez said. “Along with just like scoring the goals in the Northwestern game. Again though, all of that comes down to my teammates, they put me in the right places at the right time and our defensive line in general is really holding down the back line.”

Ohio State continued the win streak, with Rodriguez scoring the first goal of the match with Iowa that led to a 2-0 victory.

She said she felt great after making a penalty-kick goal against the Hawkeyes, and that the opportunity was amazing, but the moment wouldn’t have happened without the backing of her teammates.

“I think it was awesome that I was chosen to be able to take the penalty kick,” Rodriguez said. “I’m happy that my team can rely on me to produce in that area, but I think it’s something I look forward to do in the future.”

However, she wasn’t done yet.

In its match on Sunday against Nebraska, Ohio State was held scoreless in the first half and trailed by one, until Rodriguez made a goal from the right wing early in the second half, tying up the game on Senior Day that later forced overtime. Ohio State and Nebraska tied the game at one.

Rodriguez earned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for her goals in three consecutive matches, the first three goals of her collegiate career.

Kerr said Rodriguez’s goal that tied up the game against the Cornhuskers was an incredible moment for her and the whole team.

“It was something that we were working on in practice a lot that week,” Kerr said. “It was great to see something that we practiced all week come into play during the game, and help us so hugely.”

Coming into the 2018 season, there were many individual goals that Rodriguez had in mind, such as being a leader, helping out the players around her and working on a few individual technical aspects.  

Now, with two seasons under her belt, Rodriguez analyzed her performance from last year to now.

“Compared to last season I think I’m a lot more vocal and willing to help the people around me,” Rodriguez said. “The seniors last year and the upperclassmen this year really helped me learn, and I want to take what they taught me and teach them to others. So I think that’s the biggest difference for me from last year is now I’m able to help teach other people.”

Reflecting on what she contributes to the team, Rodriguez said she thinks that she communicates well with her team, while also providing some good attacking and defensive support.

“I chose Ohio State because it felt like home to me,” Rodriguez said. “The athletics, academics, the family atmosphere of it is great and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”