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Women’s Soccer: Ohio State seniors look back as NCAA tournament approaches

Ohio State senior forward Eleanor Gabriel (8) dribbles the ball down the field in the game against the Wisconsin Badgers on Oct. 21. Ohio State won 2-1. Credit: Cori Wade | For The Lantern

It’s not over until it’s over.

Six graduating seniors on Ohio State’s women’s soccer team (9-5-4, 6-2-3 Big Ten) know the meaning only too well.

Ohio State fell just short of the Big Ten semifinals, tying Nebraska in the Big Ten tournament on Sunday. But the season is not quite complete as the Buckeyes will enter the NCAA tournament, facing Wake Forest in the first round.

But this does not keep the seniors from looking back at their time in scarlet and gray.

“Coming off of last season where we had a record-breaking season program, I think that came so easily to us” senior forward Eleanor Gabriel said. “We didn’t have as much adversity last year, but I think this year I’m really proud of how the team was able to overcome early-season injuries and still able to be competitive down the stretch.”

Gabriel had an impressive breakout match early on this season, scoring two goals for the Buckeyes in a 2-0 victory over Illinois and notching 12 total shots on goal this year. In her junior season, she scored two goals in Ohio State’s win over Buffalo, two goals against Maryland and a goal against both Illinois and Iowa.

Ohio State’s most successful wins this season appeared in games against Morehead State, with an 8-0 victory, and a 2-1 win against Wisconsin in the last match of the regular season.

Offense seemed to be a struggle for the Buckeyes, tallying 22 total goals, eight of which were against the Eagles, along with carrying out 88 total corner kicks against opponents.

A major contributor to the Buckeyes’ steady defense this season comes from senior goalkeeper Devon Kerr, who secured 19 clean sheets in her career, No. 3 in Ohio State history.

Kerr said she hopes she has left a positive impact on the younger players on the team.

“I hope that they are able to look up to me,” Kerr said, “and the things I’ve done on the field and off the field, and not just me, other seniors on our team as well.”

After winning nine games, including six on the road, the Buckeyes earned the No. 3 seed with an opportunity to play in the Big Ten tournament, and also a chance to fight for a position in the NCAA tournament.

However, the road was not always easy for the Buckeyes.

Ohio State played 11 of 18 games away from home, suffering two losses to Duke and North Carolina at the start of the season and losing the battle against Nebraska for a spot in the Big Ten semifinals.

The strength for the Buckeyes was their defense, which allowed 14 goals in 18 games.

Despite this season’s chaos, the team still found a way to rally together, and gain some momentum throughout the season.  

Senior midfielder Sarah Roberts said being part of a team like this one means something bigger than herself and that the team is what she will miss the most.

“As my season comes to an end,” Roberts said, “it makes me really grateful that I’ve been able to challenge myself, and play with some of the best teammates that I’ve ever had the privilege to play with, so it really means a lot.”

Entering this season with a moderately young Buckeye team, the senior leadership proved to be crucial on the team’s mission to the top of the Big Ten conference.

As the seniors look back on their journeys throughout the years, Gabriel said her advice to the players heading into next year is just to have fun.

“Honestly, this time is such a short amount of time,” Gabriel said. “Though there are days when it seems like you can’t keep going any longer, just remember that you only get four short years here, and it’s always best to make the most of the time that you have.”

Other seniors leaving the team after this season include midfielder Arden Holden, midfielder and defender Brianna Gazmarian and defender Kylie Knight.

Ohio State might not achieve the same success the team achieved in the previous season. But the six Buckeye seniors and the rest of the players on the 2018 Ohio State women’s soccer team will walk away with something much more memorable — an unbreakable bond that will never be forgotten.

“We never gave up on each other,” Roberts said. “And I think that’s something to really be proud of.”

Ohio State has a chance to keep its season alive in the NCAA tournament against Wake Forest at 7 p.m. on Nov. 9.

 

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