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Buckeyes riding school-record 12-game unbeaten streak

SETTING THE SCENE
COLUMBUS, Ohio In one of only three Sweet 16’ games around the nation involving two seeded teams, the Ohio State men’s soccer team hosts defending national champion UC Santa Barbara at 1 p.m. Sunday in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.

The fifth-seeded Buckeyes are 14-3-5 overall and carry a school-record 12-game unbeaten streak (9-0-3) into the game. The 12th-seeded Gauchos are 13-3-4 and own an eight game unbeaten streak (7-0-1).

Big Ten champion Ohio State is coming off a 1-0 second-round win at home over Louisville, while Big West champion UCSB is also coming off a 1-0 home win over Washington.

Entering the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes were ranked No. 14 in the nation, while UCSB was ranked as high as No. 7.

The Gauchos are 5-2-1 on the road this season, while Ohio State is 6-1-1 at home, including 2-1-0 against ranked teams.

A GAME OF FIRSTS
A number of first times’ will happen Sunday when Ohio State and UC Santa Barbara meet.
Sunday will mark the first game Ohio State has ever played in December.
Ohio State has never hosted a Sweet 16’ game. In fact, the Buckeyes had never hosted a second-round NCAA tournament game until last Wednesday against Louisville.
Sunday will mark the first meeting between Ohio State and UC Santa Barbara.
If the Buckeyes win, it will mark their first trip to the Elite 8.’

NEXT UP FOR THE WINNER
Because No. 4 seed Indiana lost in the second round Wednesday, the winner of the Ohio State vs. UC Santa Barbara match Sunday will play at home in the Elite 8’ next weekend against either No. 13 seed Maryland or Bradley, who meet in College Park, Md., at 6 p.m. Saturday.

If Ohio State beats UCSB, the Buckeyes will host their quarterfinal match at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.

LIVE STATS, AUDIO ON THE WEB
Ohio State’s student radio station will broadcast the match Sunday live on its web site at www.OhioStateSports.net, with Josh Ellis and Gabe Norris bringing the call.

CSTV’s GameTracker is the official live stats home of the NCAA tournament and will be available at both Ohio State’s official web site, www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com, and the official web site of the NCAA, www.NCAAsports.com.

OSU IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Ohio State is making its fifth appearance in the NCAA tournament, all of which have come this decade. The Buckeyes are 2-1 at home in the NCAA tournament and 3-4 overall. This season marks the second time Ohio State has earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament, the first coming in 2000.

Year  Opponent        Location             Result
2000  Creighton       Columbus, Ohio       L, 1-0
2001  American        Winston-Salem, NC    L, 2-1
2004  Memphis         Columbus, Ohio       W, 1-0
      Notre Dame      Notre Dame, Ind.     W, 2-1
      Duke            Durham, N.C.         L, 3-0
2005  Santa Clara     Santa Clara, Calif.  L, 1-0
2007  Louisville      Columbus, Ohio       W, 1-0
      UCSB            Columbus, Ohio       1 p.m.

ANOTHER TOP 10 TEAM IN JOMS
The Buckeyes have faced nine Top 10 teams in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium since it opened in 1999 and have gone 2-7-0. Ohio State won two of its first three matches against Top 10 teams, beating No. 5 Penn State in 1999 and then No. 9 Indiana in the semifinals of the 2000 Big Ten Championship.

Ohio State has hosted 14 Top 25 opponents in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium and has gone 6-7-1 in those games. The Buckeyes are 2-1-0 against opponents at home this season, beating No. 13 West Virginia 1-0 Aug. 31, losing to No. 5 Northwestern 5-0 Sept. 23 and eliminating No. 22 Louisville Wednesday.

7 + 14 = ONE OF BEST IN THE JESSE
Since in opened in 1999, Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium has seen four matches between two teams that have a combined rank of 25 or better. The Ohio State vs. UC Santa Barbara match Sunday features No. 14 Ohio State and No. 7 UCSB. In their previous four attempts, the Buckeyes are 0-4-0.

 Combined
 Rank     Date      Matchup                 Result
  20      11/19/00  #8 Creighton, #12 OSU   L, 1-0
  21      12/2/07   #7 UCSB, #14 OSU        ?
  23      9/22/00   #3 IU, #20 OSU          L, 1-0
  24      9/23/07   #5 NU, #19 OSU          L, 4-0
  25      9/1/06    #5 UNC, #20 OSU         L, 1-0
  
TOUGH TO BEAT SANTA IN DECEMBER
UC Santa Barbara is 14-4-0 in the NCAA tournament since first qualifying in 2002. The Gauchos have won seven-consecutive NCAA tournament games dating back to last season when they went 6-0 on their way to the national championship. Last season, UCSB won NCAA tournament road matches at Old Dominion and No. 1 Southern Methodist.

THE BIG TEN CHAMPION BUCKEYES
Ohio State enters the NCAA tournament with an automatic bid after winning the Big Ten championship Nov. 11 over Indiana in a penalty kick shootout, 5-4. The Buckeyes were the No. 2 seed in the championship and ranked No. 18, while the Hoosiers were the No. 1 seed and ranked No. 10.

At Old College Field in East Lansing, Mich., Ohio State beat No. 7 seed Michigan, 1-0, in the quarterfinals and knocked off No. 3 seed and 14th-ranked Northwestern, 1-0, in the semifinals. That set up a rematch of the 2006 Big Ten Championship against Indiana, which was won by the Hoosiers, 1-0, in Columbus.

For the second time this season, Ohio State and Indiana played to a 0-0 tie, sending the match to a penalty kick shootout. OSU senior goalkeeper Casey Latchem saved three PKs in the shootout and sophomore Doug Verhoff’s conversion in period seven, the second sudden-death period, ended the contest.

OSU SENIORS OWN WINS RECORD
The seven-member Ohio State senior class is the winningest class in the history of the men’s soccer program both in terms of wins (48) and winning percentage (.635). The class is 48-25-12 overall during the last four years to eclipse the 2002 senior Buckeyes, who previously held both records with a 44-27-7 record (.609).

Since they arrived in 2004, the 2007 OSU seniors have helped lead the Buckeyes to a Big Ten championship (2007), a Big Ten regular-season co-championship (2004), three trips to the NCAA tournament (2004, 2005, 2007) and to Ohio State’s first two Sweet 16 appearances (2004, 2007).

The senior class includes forward Xavier Balc (Ohio State’s all-time assist leader), defender Eric Brunner (Ohio State’s first MAC Hermann Trophy candidate), goalkeeper Casey Latchem (OSU all-time leader in shutouts and goals against average), forwards Eric Edwards and Ryan Kustos and midfielders Kyle Retzlaff and Steven Traeger.

BUCKEYES IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Prior to Wednesday’s second-round win over Louisville, only four current Buckeyes had been in the starting lineup in an NCAA tournament game. That came in 2005 at Santa Clara when forward Xavier Balc, midfielders Danny Irizarry and Geoff Marsh and defender Eric Brunner all started.

Balc had played in four NCAA tournament games, as had forward Ryan Kustos, who was the only current Buckeye with a point in the NCAA tournament before Wednesday. That came Nov. 23, 2004, when he scored the game-winning goal in the second round win at Notre Dame.

THE STREAK IS AT 12
Ohio State’s current 12-game unbeaten streak is a program record, surpassing the previous best unbeaten streak of seven games set three times previously, including 1977 (7-0-0), 2000 (6-0-1) and 2001 (6-0-1). Here is a look at those 11 games:

  1. Oct. 3 vs. Cal St. Bakersfield: W 1-0 – Late goal from Doug Verhoff – header off Balc free kick
  2. Oct. 6 vs. Penn State: W, 1-0 – PSU allows own goal after long throw in from Tim Gabel
  3. Oct. 10 vs. Oakland: W, 2-1 – Eric Brunner delivers late game-winner with header off Balc corner kick
  4. Oct. 13 at Wisconsin: W, 2-1 – Verhoff scores early, Matt Gold delivers game-winner
  5. Oct. 21 at No. 10 Indiana: T 0-0 (2ot) – Latchem’s seven saves give Buckeyes first ever shutout in Bloomington
  6. Oct. 27 vs. Michigan: W, 1-0 (ot) – on senior day, Gabel scores golden goal in first minute of OT off Balc corner kick
  7. Oct. 31 at Louisville: T, 1-1 (2ot) – Balc scores early
  8. Nov. 4 at No. 18 Michigan State: W, 2-0 – Balc scores game-winner in eighth minute, assists on Brunner goal in 26th minute
  9. Nov. 8 vs. Michigan, Big Ten Quarterfinals at MSU, W 1-0 – Balc
10. Nov. 9 vs. No. 14 Northwestern, Big Ten Semifinals at MSU, W 1-0 – Balc
11. Nov. 11 vs. No. 10 Indiana, Big Ten Championship at MSU, T 1-0 (won 5-4 on penalty kicks) – Latchem saves three PKs
12. Nov. 28 vs. No. 22 Louisville, NCAA tournament second-round, W 1-0 – Magill scores game-winner in 53rd minute, Latchem has fifth-straight shutout.

OSU AMONG OFFENSIVE LEADERS
In the regular season, Ohio State led the Big Ten in shots (301, 16.7 per game) and corner kicks (125, 6.9 per game), tied for first in assists (31, 1.7 per game) and ranked fourth in goals (28, 1.6 per game).

OHIO STATE AT A GLANCE
The Buckeyes have scored 31 goals this season (1.4 per game) and allowed 15 (0.7 per game). Of those 31 goals, 21 are through the run of play, six are from corner kicks (3 by Tim Gabel, 3 by Eric Brunner), three are own goals and one is a penalty kick.

Ohio State, which led the Big Ten in shots, has out-shot 16 of its 22 opponents and leads that category overall 364-273 (16.4-12.3 per game). The Buckeyes’ shots on goal advantage is 140-97 and their corner kick lead is 141-94.

Twelve Buckeyes have scored a goal and eight players have at least two goals each. Senior forward Xavier Balc leads the way with six goals and a school-record 12 assists. He has scored or assisted on six of Ohio State’s last seven goals. Following Balc on the stat sheet are Gabel (three goals, five assists), sophomore Andrew Magill (three goals, five assists) and Brunner (four goals).

Senior goalkeeper Casey Latchem owns a school-record 0.66 goals-against average and a school-record 13 shutouts in 22 outings this season and has collected 78 saves. He has allowed only three goals in the last 12 games.

The Buckeyes finished 11-7-3 overall last season and owned a final RPI of No. 28, but were surprisingly not selected for the NCAA tournament. Ohio State dropped a 1-0 decision to Indiana in the Big Ten championship game and was ranked No. 5 in the NSCAA Great Lakes Region. The Buckeyes went 8-2-1 in their last 11 games of the 2006 season, with their only two losses coming to Indiana.

Ohio State outscored its opponents 26-17 in 2006 and led the opposition in shots (351-242), shots on goal (128-93) and corner kicks (97-80).

Last season, Balc led the Big Ten in points (23), assists (9) and shots (75) and tied for the league-lead in goals (7). Latchem led the Big Ten with 10 shutouts last year and posted a 0.79 goals-against average, which was the second-best season in Ohio State history.

BUCKEYES OWN .689 WIN PCT. IN JOMS
The Buckeyes are 51-20-11 (.689) in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium since the facility opened in 1999. Ohio State won eight games (8-3-1) in the Jesse in 2006, the most in a single season. Ohio State’s best winning percentage at JOMS was in 2002 with a 7-1-1 record (.833), which included a facility-best six-game winning streak.

The Buckeyes set an attendance record Oct. 27 against Michigan with a crowd of 1,734, which marked a new high for a single-session men’s soccer game. The record attendance for a men’s and women’s double-header is 2,307, set Oct. 11, 2006 against Louisville.
 
BUCKEYES AGAINST THE BIG WEST
The Buckeyes have faced only one team from the Big West Conference, that being Cal State Fullerton. Ohio State leads the series with Fullerton 2-1-0, which includes a 6-1 win over the Titans at the UCLA Soccer Classic earlier this season.

COMMON OPPONENTS
Only one common opponent appears on both Ohio State’s and UCSB’s schedule this season, that being Cal State Fullerton. The Buckeyes handed the Titans a 6-1 loss Sept. 16 at the UCLA Soccer Classic, while the Gauchos beat CSF 1-0 in a Big West Conference game Oct. 6 in Santa Barbara.

ABOUT THE GAUCHOS
UC Santa Barbara has six starters back this season from its 2006 team that went 17-7-1 and won the national championship. The Gauchos won the Big West Conference again this season under ninth-year head coach Tim Vom Steeg, who twice has been named national coach of the year after leading UCSB to the national title game (2006 and 2004 – lost to Indiana on PKs).

Chris Pontius leads the Gauchos in scoring with 11 goals and two assists for 24 points, while Ciaran O’Brien is next with 23 points from seven goals and nine assists. UCSB senior defender Andy Iro, a three-time All-American, is among the semifinalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy. He earned College Cup Most Outstanding Defensive Player last season.

BUCKEYES-GAUCHOS CONNECTIONS
While he was an assistant coach at Fresno State, John Bluem recruited prep standout Tim Vom Steeg, who is now in his ninth season as head coach at UCSB. Bluem, who was at Fresno State for 14 seasons (1984-96) played UCSB regularly.

Two Gauchos and two Buckeyes are both from Colorado. UCSB sophomore forward Bongomin Otii and freshman midfielder Joseph Eubanks are both from Denver, while OSU senior midfielder Steven Traeger is from Littleton and junior midfielder Roger Espinoza is from Aurora.

ANOTHER TOUGH SCHEDULE
Ohio State’s 14-3-5 record this season has come against opponents that are a combined 222-146-76 (.586). The Buckeyes’ three losses are to teams with a combined record of 32-18-12 (UCLA, Northwestern, Wisconsin-Green Bay).

BUCKEYES ADD ANOTHER FAN
Just a few hours before Ohio State gathered to watch the NCAA tournament selection show Nov. 19, OSU assistant coach Andy Brinkman and his wife Stacey welcomed their second child, Lucas Martin. Perhaps a future goalkeeper like his father, Lucas checked in at 7 pounds, nine ounces and was just shy of 21 inches long. He joins a sister, Grace.

ALL-BIG TEN HONORS GO TO…
Senior forward Xavier Balc was named the 2007 Big Ten Player of the Year and was joined on the first team by senior defender Eric Brunner and junior midfielder Roger Espinoza.

Junior midfielder Danny Irizarry was a second-team selection and midfielder Matt Gold was named to the all-freshman team.
Balc is Ohio State’s second Big Ten Player of the Year, joining Justin Cook (2004). Balc and Brunner were unanimous first-team selections the last two seasons.

BALC EARNS THREE NATIONAL TEAM OF WEEK HONORS
Senior forward Xavier Balc scored two goals and had an assist in the last week of the regular season and was named to three national teams of the week Nov. 5 (College Soccer News, Soccer America and Top Drawer Soccer).

Balc’s school-record 12 assists this season lead the Big Ten and are tied for second-most in the nation. With six goals, Balc’s 24 points also lead the Big Ten.

LATCHEM AND VERHOFF EARN ACADEMIC HONORS
Senior goalkeeper Casey Latchem and sophomore defender Doug Verhoff were both named first-team Academic All-District Nov. 1 by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). As first-teamers, they are now on the Academic All-America ballot, which will be voted upon later this month.
Verhoff owns a GPA over 3.6 in microbiology, while Latchem’s GPA is over 3.3 in communication.

A total of five Buckeyes were nominated Oct. 16 for the academic squad, including Latchem and Verhoff along with juniors Tim Gabel, Geoff Marsh and Patrick Roan. To be nominated, a student-athlete must be a starter or have played in most of the games and must be at least a sophomore with a GPA over 3.20.

BUCKEYES IN THE POLLS
Ohio State is ranked No. 14 in each of the national polls entering the NCAA tournament.

In the NSCAA/adidas Great Lakes Region, Ohio State checked in at No. 3 behind Indiana and Notre Dame. The Buckeyes have been ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation this season (Sept. 10, Soccer Times).

BALC OWNS FIVE OSU RECORDS
Senior forward Xavier Balc is Ohio State’s all-time assist leader with 33 and his 12 assists this season are the OSU single-season record.

Earlier this season, Balc notched an OSU record four assists in the Buckeyes’ 6-1 win over Cal State Fullerton, which stand as the most helpers in a game in the nation this season.

In addition to his single-season and career assists records, Balc also owns the Ohio State record for career shots (245) and single-season shots (75 in 2006) and ranks fourth all-time in points (75, 21 goals, 33 assists).

A first-team All-Big Ten selection last year, Balc was named to the Top Drawer Soccer national team of the week Sept. 17.

LATCHEM EARNS NATIONAL TEAM OF THE WEEK HONOR
Senior goalkeeper Casey Latchem was named to the national team of the week by College Soccer News Oct. 29. He had seven saves Oct. 27 in Ohio State’s 1-0 overtime win over Michigan for his eighth shutout of the season, which is tied for the Big Ten lead.

During the Buckeyes’ current 12-game unbeaten streak, Latchem has allowed only three goals.

ERIC BRUNNER – HERMANN CANDIDATE UPDATE
Senior defender Eric Brunner was named to the Missouri Athletic Club’s Hermann Trophy preseason watch list Aug. 8. He owns four goals this season – three of which were game-winners.

Brunner, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, earned a spot on the Top Drawer Soccer National Team of the Week Sept. 10 after being named the MVP of the Penn State Nike Classic Sept. 9.

Brunner was named the Big Ten defensive player of the week Sept. 3 as the Buckeyes posted two shutouts and won the title of the Ohio State Wolstein Classic (beat No. 13 West Virginia, tied Syracuse).

A 6-foot-4-inch central defender, Brunner was a 2006 first-team All-Big Ten selection and is the first Buckeye to appear on a watch list for the trophy given annually to the player of the year in NCAA Div. I soccer. He was named a preseason third-team All-American by College Soccer News.

BUCKEYES IN THE BIG TEN STATS
In the final regular-season Big Ten statistics, senior Xavier Balc led the Big Ten in assists (12, .7 per game, tied for second nationally) and ranked second in shots (57, 3.2 per game). Senior Eric Brunner was tied for third in game-winning goals (3). Senior Casey Latchem ranked third in goals against average (0.80) and was tied for first in shutouts (9).

IN THE RECORD BOOK
Senior Xavier Balc is Ohio State’s all-time leader in career assists (33) and shots (247). He ranks seventh all-time in goals (21) and fourth in points (75). Balc’s 12 assists this season are an Ohio State single-season record. In 2006, he set an OSU record for shots in a season with 75 and had nine assists.

Goalkeeper Casey Latchem owns Ohio State records for career shutouts (25) and single-season shutouts (13 this season). Currently, his 0.66 goals against average this season and 0.84 career GAA are both school records.

BLUEM IN 11TH SEASON AT OSU
Eleventh-year head coach John Bluem has guided the Buckeyes to three Big Ten titles this decade and all five of the program’s NCAA tournament appearances (2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007). His 2004 squad topped No. 11 Memphis and No. 9 Notre Dame in the postseason to advance to the Sweet 16.’

Bluem owns a record of 115-80-28 (.577) at Ohio State. His win total and win percentage are school records. Overall, his career record stands at 201-107-39 (.634), which includes six seasons at Fresno State.

AWARD WINNERS RETURN
Ohio State had three first-team All-Big Ten selections in 2006 and two are back this season. Defender Eric Brunner, who is on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, and Xavier Balc, who is already the school’s all-time assists leader, return in 2007.

Senior goalkeeper Casey Latchem and junior midfielder Geoff Marsh were both selected to the Big Ten All-Tournament team last year. Two current Buckeyes were named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen Team in their careers – Balc and junior Danny Irizarry.

BUCKEYES IN THE MLS
Seven Buckeyes have been Major League Soccer draft picks since 2003, which is the second-highest total among Big Ten schools behind only Indiana. Last January in the supplemental draft, defender Dustin Kirby was selected by Real Salt Lake. In the 2006 SuperDraft third round, defender Kyle Veris was taken at No. 25 overall by the L.A. Galaxy and goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr. was selected at No. 30 by F.C. Dallas and was the first goalkeeper picked.

In the 2003 draft, forward Andy Rosenband and defender Jake Traeger (brother of current Buckeye Steven Traeger) were taken in the seventh round, while in 2005 forward Justin Cook and midfielder Sammy Tamporello were taken in the supplemental draft.

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Contact: Tim Stried, stried.3@osu.edu