Ohio State junior defender CC Uche (3) looks for an open man during the first half of the Ohio State-Rutgers game on Sep. 30. Ohio State lost 3-2. Credit: Cody Mefferd | For the Lantern

Ohio State men’s soccer finished with only one win last season, but aims to change its course with a more experienced team, coach and the addition of a handful of transfers.

Despite having its lowest win total since 1972, Ohio State set high internal expectations. Second-year head coach Brian Maisonneuve expects a turnaround from the whole team. 

“I’m hoping to see breakout seasons for the whole group in terms of getting better every single day. I would be disappointed if the whole group cannot experience a breakthrough,” Maisonneuve said.

Perhaps the Buckeyes’ most important transfer addition was junior defender Joe Ortiz. Ortiz started every game for the former top ten Air Force.

Another key transfer is redshirt junior defender Samuel Buzzas, who played 29 matches at Xavier.

“The team is a new group, but not necessarily a young group,” Maisonneuve said. 

Ohio State is also returning players at key positions with junior midfielder Joshua Jackson-Ketchup, senior defender CC Uche and senior goalkeeper Parker Siegfried. 

A better practiced team is a key factor for success this season, Maisonneuve said. 

“The X’s and O’s are coming, but you have to have those strong work habits first,” he said. “We have had 12 months to work with the boys and to create the culture we want, which directly determines the habits of the boys and ultimately the success of the team.”

Individual and team experiences allow for learning. The Buckeyes learned in 2018 the importance of defense: Ohio State allowed an average of two goals per game. 

“I want the team to be exciting and score goals, but the truth is that defense wins championships,” Maisonneuve said. “Our focus this preseason has been mainly team defending. If our team defending is good then we should be winning the ball in good spots.” 

Experience is also leading players to be more confident with their game —  another important factor for success, Siegfried said.  

“When I was younger, I never believed that experience was as important as training, but after each year, I feel more and more comfortable and I have never felt this confident before,” Siegfried said. “I am excited to get out there one last time.”  

The Buckeyes believe this year can be different due to stronger team chemistry. 

“Hands down, this is the closest team I’ve been a part of. Every player from freshman to transfer and senior has been included well,” Siegfried said. 

The Buckeyes kick their season off Friday against California State Northridge at Jesse Owen Memorial Stadium at 7 p.m.