Ohio State players celebrate then-redshirt freshman forward Devyn Etling’s (9) goal during the first half of the Ohio State-Rutgers game in 2018. Ohio State lost 3-2. Credit: Cody Mefferd | For the Lantern

Ohio State men’s soccer scored eight goals in 2018 –– the fewest in the Big Ten by 10 scores.

Halfway through the 2019 season and Devyn Etling and Jack Holland alone have already combined for eight goals.

The pair have put the Big Ten on notice, as the Buckeyes are tied for the conference lead in goals thanks to the acrobatics of redshirt sophomore forward Etling and the left foot of senior midfielder Holland.

“As two really good attacking, creative players, they work their tails off,” head coach Brian Maisonneuve said.

Growing up just an hour apart — Holland from Dublin, Ohio, and Etling from Ashland, Ohio — the two knew of each other prior to coming to Ohio State. 

In high school, Holland played club soccer with the Ohio Premier Eagles, and Etling played with the Columbus Crew Academy.

“We had one game where we played against each other. It was like a friendly kind of scrimmage,” Etling said. “I didn’t know [Holland] was going to Ohio State at the time, and he came up to me and was like, ‘Hey, I’ll see you at Ohio State.’”

After three years of practicing and playing together, Holland and Etling are producing results. 

Etling’s five goals and 11 points lead the team, and he is tied for the conference lead in scores. Holland is fifth in the conference with three goals, and his four assists are the most on the Buckeyes.

Etling said both players try to find specific aspects of the other’s game to mesh with and inculcate into their game routines. 

“We are moving the ball so much better this year. If I can get him in on his left foot, he’s deadly with his left foot,” Etling said.

Holland said knowing his teammate’s tendencies allows him to set up Etling in places he is most effective.

“Knowing that Devyn is so good in the air, maybe with my crosses to him I can find his head versus his feet,” Holland said.

Etling’s penchant for high-wire acrobatics was proven with the first of two goals against the University of South Florida on Sept. 17, when he scored a header on a pass from senior defender Osman Fofanah. 

However, Etling can also dish out the ball if he finds a teammate with an opportunity to score, as he did setting Holland up for the game-winning goal against Bowling Green.

Maisonneuve said Etling’s adept body control is an asset to the team.

“His ability to put his body in some really unique situations makes him a handful,” Maisonneuve said. “He’s willing to put himself in some dangerous spots to score goals.”

When Etling finds success, it boosts the team’s morale and overall chemistry. 

“He just works super hard, so it is really easy for me to feed off his energy,” Holland said. “You see him in the games, and he is just nonstop getting knocked down, throwing his body around, so it fires me up when I see him do that.” 

Ohio State is 5-1-0 so far in the 2019 season, a stark contrast to the 1-4-1 start it had a season ago.

Since then, the team has lost to Penn State and West Virginia and tied Northwestern, but Etling and Holland are out to prove that 2018’s 1-15-2 record was an aberration.

“Hopefully in the end, we will be able to do well and be one of the better duos and lead the team to being the best,” Etling said.