After awaiting a decision from the NCAA selection show, the Ohio State women’s soccer team (9-5-4, 6-2-3 Big Ten) will now compete in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Wake Forest at 7 p.m. on Friday at Spry Stadium.
Senior midfielder Bayley Feist and sophomore forward Estelle Laurier have driven Wake Forest’s potent offense this season. Feist is up to six goals and Laurier has four so far this season. The team’s offense also had a season-high six points against Longwood.
“I think we have a good chance to come into Wake Forest and give them a good game,” Ohio State freshman forward Kayla Fischer said.
On Monday, the Buckeyes were granted an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, marking its 13th appearance in the tournament. Like Ohio State, the road for Wake Forest (8-8-1, 4-6-0 Big Ten) has remained relatively unsteady throughout the season.
While Wake Forest has had no problem scoring goals, it has encountered difficulties preventing other teams from doing the same. Virginia scored five against the Demon Deacons in a loss on Sept. 30 and Duke scored three against them the following game in a loss on Oct. 4, starting a four-game losing streak.
The last time both teams met was in the 2014 season opener, where the Buckeyes came away with the 1-0 victory in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
This time, the stakes are even higher.
After starting off the regular season with two losses, dealing with multiple injuries and falling just short of the Big Ten semifinals to Nebraska, the Buckeyes have not had an easy road to the NCAA tournament.
“We’ve faced a lot of adversity this year,” Ohio State senior midfielder Sarah Roberts said. “At this point, anything that gets thrown against us we look at it more as an opportunity, an opportunity to get better, an opportunity to show the rest of the country what the Buckeyes are made of.”
For the Demon Deacons, this rematch presents an opportunity for the team to put its best foot forward and gain a win in front of the home crowd.
This matchup for the Buckeyes will be the most important road test it has faced thus far.
For some of the players on the team, this will be their first experience playing soccer in an NCAA tournament, including Fischer, who said the team is excited for the upcoming matchup.
“Never being in a tournament before,” Fischer said, “I’m definitely excited to see what it’s going to bring. I’m expecting that our team can compete and keep going in the tournament. I know throughout the season we’ve been getting better and better. I think as long as we continue that, we have a good shot.”
One key element that remains a strength for the Buckeyes is its performance on defense. Ohio State has allowed 14 goals in 18 games this season..
“From a senior perspective,” Roberts said, “I think we’re excited that we get one more chance and one more game to kind of make our mark on the program.”