Ohio State men’s soccer will put its five-game win streak on the line Saturday when it faces Big Ten rival Penn State.
Penn State (3-1-1), winner of two straight games, will be Ohio State’s (5-1-0) first conference opponent, coming off a win against Villanova that snapped a four-game win streak.
Ohio State, with only one win in 2018, has already won five this season. The Buckeyes are doubling the average number of goals they scored a season ago and have surrendered zero goals in three of their seven matches.
Despite their turnaround success, the Buckeyes are not taking Penn State lightly.
“Right now every Big Ten game is a rivalry,” head coach Brian Maisonneuve said.
The Buckeyes have scored seven goals in their past three games, and hope to maintain their momentum Saturday.
Redshirt sophomore forward Devyn Etling leads the charge as team scoring leader. He kicked the winning goals against South Florida and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Penn State could provide a defensive test for Etling and the Buckeye offense, pitching shutouts in its past two matches against Stetson and Villanova.
The Nittany Lions have three experienced defenders starting in junior Dax Hoffman, graduate student Will Campbell and senior Mason Deeds.
On offense, the Nittany Lions are averaging the same number of goals (2) as the Buckeyes.
Senior midfielder Aaron Malloy and senior forward Christian Sload lead Penn State in combined goals and assists, having netted at least two goals each.
Penn State also boasts what Masionneuve called a “dangerous” attack off of set pieces, while Ohio State is just 0-for-41 on converting corner kicks to goals this season. Ohio State had seven corners alone vs South Florida and could not find the back of the net.
“We could definitely score more goals on set pieces,” Maisonneuve said.
Etling said Maisonneuve is largely to thank for the success of the men’s soccer program so far.
“His energy. He never stops working. It makes us want to work for him, and it has been so good for our team,” Etling said.
Redshirt senior goalkeeper Parker Siegfried added that Maisonneuve places emphasis on hard work and excellence in the defense.
“Last year, he set the foundation. Now we are starting to see the results of it all,” Siegfried said.
Ohio State heads into the game allowing 1.17 goals per game, which is half the number of goals surrendered per game last season.
“Our defense has been really organized. I think teams are frustrated because they have not been able to break us,” Siegfried said.
Siegfried said he would describe members of the Ohio State defense as being his heroes. The Buckeye defense only allowed five of South Florida’s 14 total shots to reach the net.
The conference-opening contest kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.