As Ohio State (4-8-2, 2-4-1 Big Ten) approaches its final four games of the season, it will attempt to rebound from a three-game winless streak as it hosts Big Ten opponents Northwestern (5-7-2, 3-3-1) and Illinois (8-6-0, 2-5-0).
Northwestern opens the homestand for the Buckeyes.
The Wildcats come into the contest scoring the third-fewest goals in the Big Ten, which senior defender Marike Mousset said fuels Ohio State’s desire for a shutout.
“Shutouts are always super crucial. We go into every game wanting a shutout obviously,” Mousset said. “Going up against Northwestern, that is definitely what we are going to be focused on initially. Is everyone working super hard to not allow any goals defensively?”
Mousset is a captain and starter on Ohio State’s backline, which allows 1.29 goals per contest and boasts four shutouts in its past nine games. She credits the closeness and effort of everyone on the defense.
“I think we have a super strong love of our unit. If anyone makes a mistake we know someone else will be sprinting to cover for them,” Mousset said. “I think that is the mentality for the backline for sure and the whole team as a defensive mentality.”
Defensively, Northwestern allows half a goal more per game than it scores –– 1.36 –– which is slightly higher than the 1.29 goals Ohio State allows.
Sophomore forward Kayla Fischer said the Buckeyes’ positioning on offense could go a long way.
“I think we have the capability to attack behind them, and we can really pull out some of our strengths in our team and are able to expose what they are not so good at,” Fischer said.
Ohio State takes on the Wildcats at 7 p.m. Thursday in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
Even with the Big Ten’s third-worst conference record, the Fighting Illini have posted the fourth-most goals among the 14 teams.
The squad has netted 25 goals, with sophomore forward Makena Silber and junior midfielder Hope Breslin scoring six and five goals, respectively.
Even with the Fighting Illini’s poor conference record, Mousset said the Buckeyes can’t overlook anyone.
“I honestly think that in the Big Ten, it’s a struggle every game because every team works so hard,” Mousset said.
The Fighting Illini have allowed three more goals than any Big Ten team, with 28 on the season. That total includes seven games of at least two goals allowed, including a six-goal barrage against Maryland.
Fischer has shared the team lead in goals this season with junior forward Marissa Birzon, each of them netting four. Fischer also leads the team with three assists, 49 shots, 20 shots on goal and two game-winning goals.
“It’s definitely a different role this year than it was last year,” Fischer said. “Being a sophomore, there is a lot more put on me as a player, and I think embracing that role and helping the freshmen under me to make an impact for our team.”
Fischer and the offense hope to produce against Illinois, but Mousset said as of now, Northwestern is all that is on the team’s mind.
“We really do take it one game at a time, so we haven’t even looked at Illinois yet as a team, because we are really just focusing on this next Thursday,” Mousset said.
The Buckeyes kick off against Illinois at 2 p.m. Sunday in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.