The Ohio State men’s club soccer team huddles together during a 3-1 victory over Bowling Green State on Sept. 15. Credit: Courtesy of Jared Gerlacher

Coming off a third-place finish at the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association National Championships a season ago, the Ohio State Men’s Club Soccer team is hungry for revenge.

The team finished with a 16-1-2 record in 2019, and plans on having similar success this year.

“I feel like there is a real sense of getting really close and haven’t reached the ultimate goal of being a national champion, so especially the upperclassmen seem really motivated this year and want to get back and win the whole thing,” head coach Jon Bowman said.

The club team varies from the varsity team in many aspects, one being the freedom for players to have an impact on coaching decisions and tactics. Bowman said it’s a product of coaches being former club players, which helps with chemistry.

“It’s not as if they are saying, ‘Do x, do y,’ they are saying, ‘We should do x, what do you think about it,” team president and senior midfielder Jared Gerlacher said. “It’s a lot of back and forth, and definitely much easier to go back and forth, and you can’t be afraid to say what you feel.”

This unique relationship between players and coaches has yielded success for the club, as its lost just three games in the past three seasons.

Despite the success, Bowman said the team still feels like it came up short.

The motivation from the past few years has driven the team to a solid 3-0-2 start, out-scoring its opponents 11-3.

In an attempt to capture the elusive national title, Ohio State is switching its mindset and tactics.

“This year I think we are taking a more attack-minded approach in order to break down some of these teams that have held us scoreless in the past, and in doing so I think we are leaving ourselves more vulnerable in the back line,” Bowman said. “But it’s a risk I think we need to and are willing to make.”

The team returns both starting center backs in juniors Ryan Schoener and Matiss Reineks, as well as freshman right back Sam Polonia. All goalies are back for the Buckeyes as well, so their back line holds continuity.

Gerlacher said he expects sophomore forward Casey Settleman to score a lot of goals in an expanded role at striker this season. Settleman scored five times in 2018, all of which coming in a 13-0 thrashing of Cleveland State.

Ohio State also returns senior forward Daniel Branch, who led the team with eight goals this past season.

“Overall, if anything we almost got better, especially with the new people we added this year.” Gerlacher said.

Even with some experience, the team added nine new players to help build for the future of the program. With 11 seniors, the need to start developing the younger players is definitely a priority, Bowman said.

“What makes our team so strong is the fact that from bottom to top every single player can play,” Bowman said. “We never really have to worry about putting someone in because we have faith and trust that everybody can do their job and I think that is really where the strength is.”

Even with all the tough tasks at hand, under the leadership of Gerlacher, the team will be in good hands.

“I just want to be an example and set a tone for the club going forward,” he said. “Having come in as a freshman, I got to see the older kids and older players, set the tone for the entire season. The culture they built is still here today. It is something that I want to do and keep going, a culture of hard work, but we are also here to have fun.”

After a tie with Cincinnati Sunday, the Buckeyes play Youngstown State at 4 p.m. for the second leg of its home double-header.