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Aug. 26, 2004

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SETTING THE SCENE
COLUMBUS, Ohio – In its third and final exhibition match of the preseason, the Ohio State men’s soccer team will host No 12 Rutgers at 7:30 p.m. Friday night in Crew Stadium in the College Cup Preview Match. The Buckeyes turned in impressive performances in their first two exhibition matches, topping Robert Morris, 5-1, last Saturday and handing Pittsburgh a 2-0 setback Tuesday.

Following the College Cup Preview Match, Ohio State will get the 2004 season off to an exciting start when a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference powers, Wake Forest and North Carolina, invade Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium for the Ohio State Classic, Sept. 3 and 5.

A LOOK AT THE SCARLET KNIGHTS
Rutgers returns eight starters from a squad that finished 11-7-4 last year and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Head coach Bob Reasso is in his 26th year at the Piscataway, N.J., school that went 5-2-3 in the Big East Conference in 2003. Rutgers was ranked No. 25 in the final 2003 poll and checks in at No. 12 in the 2004 NSCAA/adidas Preseason Poll.

Senior Chris Karcz is the leading returning scorer from a year ago with seven goals and four assists in 2003. In goal, Lubos Ancin returns after starting seven games last season and recording a 1.50 goals-against average. Eight starters and 15 total letterwinners are back for the Scarlet Knights, who were defeated by Seton Hall, 1-0, Wednesday in their exhibition opener.

PREVIEW MATCH IS 4TH FOR OSU
The match in Crew Stadium Friday will mark the fourth consecutive year Ohio State has hosted the College Cup Preview Match. The Buckeyes played to a 0-0 draw with SMU in 2001, fell to Maryland, 3-1, in 2002 and were dealt a 5-0 loss to SMU last season.

ANOTHER TOUGH SCHEDULE FOR OSU
Ohio State’s 2003 schedule was ranked as the eighth-toughest in the nation at the end of the season by the Ratings Percentage Index. The Buckeyes faced 14 teams that at some point appeared in at least one of the national polls. Seven of those opponents were selected for the 48-member NCAA tournament field, and two foes, Maryland and Indiana, advanced to the College Cup, with the Hoosiers winning the national championship. Collectively, Ohio State’s opponents posted a 215-126-47 record in 2003. Nine of the Buckeyes’ 12 losses were by just one goal.

The Buckeyes’ schedule in 2004 looks to be even tougher, as the opposition posted a .627 winning percentage with an overall record of 195-106-49. Seven of those teams were among the 48-member 2003 NCAA Tournament field.

NOTING THE BUCKEYES
After two exhibition matches, sophomore Taylor Korpieski leads Ohio State in scoring with two goals and two assists for six points. With that same point total all of last year, Korpieski led the Buckeyes in scoring to become the first freshman to do so since Justin Cook did it in 2000. Cook, with 21 career goals and 11 assists, returns in 2004 after missing last season because of injury.

Junior Kyle Veris has also found the back of the net twice for the Buckeyes and has one assist for five points. Freshman Xavier Balc has taken a team-high 10 shots and has a team-best four shots on goal. Balc and senior Sammy Tamporello have a goal and an assist each. In goal, freshman Casey Latchem and returning starter junior Ray Burse Jr. have split time evenly thus far.

Ohio State returns four players that have at least 35 career starts, including Cook and Tamporello and fellow seniors Eric Schwebach and Peter Withers. Of the ten players that logged at least 1,000 minutes of field time last fall, six are back, including Schwebach (1,437), Tamporello (1,015), Korpieski (1,295), junior Ray Burse (1,473),sophomore Brent Rohrer (1,222) and sophomore Dustin Kirby (1,712).

FRESHMAN CLASS RANKED IN NATION
As further evidence that the Buckeyes have reloaded their talent supply, College Soccer News (collegesoccernews.com) has listed the eight-member Ohio State freshman class among the best in the nation. As a group, the Buckeye newcomers are ranked No. 35 out of the nearly 200 Division I programs in the country. Ohio State was awarded that ranking even without the inclusion of transfer Kyle Veris among the newcomers listed.

COOK SCORES WINNING PDL GOAL
Justin Cook had a successful summer playing for the Central Florida Kraze of the Premier Development League. Cook helped lead the Kraze to the PDL championship game in Orlando, where he scored the game-winning goal in the 88th minute as Central Florida notched a 1-0 victory over the Boulder Rapids Reserves.

Cook was named the PDL Championship’s Most Valuable Player for his efforts in helping Central Florida cap off a 14-3-1 season and the championship of the country’s top Under-23 league for development of professional prospects.

BUCKEYES POSITION-BY-POSITION
Goalkeepers: Junior Ray Burse returns after posting a 1.27 goals-allowed average last year with 52 saves in his first season as a starter. “Ray is penciled in to be our goalkeeper, but he’ll be seriously challenged by (freshman) Casey Latchem,” Bluem said. “He and Ray will challenge each other and we’ll have two competent goalkeepers.”

Defenders: The Buckeyes lost three talented defenders to graduation following last season, signaling a changing of the guard at this area on the field. Senior Eric Schwebach is back for his third year as a full-time starter, while sophomores Dustin Kirby and Brent Rohrer started 20 and 18 games, respectively, last season between the midfield and defender spots.

“We have added some new defenders and are going to have to make some adjustments and have people play in defensive roles that perhaps were midfielders last year or were forwards in high school when we recruited them,” Bluem said.

Midfielders: Ohio State’s midfield group is deep and talented and will be the strength of the team while the defenders gel and the forwards find their rhythm.

“Midfielder, along with our front line, is probably where we return our most experienced group,” Bluem said. “Pete Withers and Sammy Tamporello have basically been four-year starters and Adam Schauer started just about every game last year. Brent Rohrer started every game last year in the midfield and although we’ve moved him to the back he could still end up in the midfield. Taylor Korpieski and Rob Strachan played a ton last season, so there are six midfielders right there that have all played a significant amount of time last year and we thought they did well.”

Forwards: The trio of a healthy Justin Cook, Kevin Nugent and transfer Kyle Veris comprise what could be the Buckeyes’ most improved area from last year.

“Justin Cook is going to have a good season because this year will be the springboard to his professional career,” Bluem said. “In the spring he was able to play for us and what a dramatic difference in how dangerous we looked as a team. Kevin Nugent worked very hard in the offseason and had a very productive spring. Veris is a big, strong center forward. I think he is a force and with him, Cook and Nugent we have a rotation of three forwards that all three will be very dangerous.”

SENIORS WILL BE MISSED
Seniors Matt McCune, Sam Migliano, David Ridenhour and AJ Weber will be missed as the Buckeyes begin preparations for the 2004 season. That quartet helped lead Ohio State into the national postseason scene for the first time in school history in 2000 and 2001.

McCune, Migliano and Ridenhour all started in the defensive line, while McCune started at either defender or midfielder. In 2003, Ohio State once again owned one of the Big Ten’s best defenses. In conference games, the Buckeyes allowed 1.33 goals per game, which ranked second (tie), while in all games the Buckeyes have 1.16 goals per game, which ranked third.

2003 BIG TEN AWARD WINNERS
A trio of Ohio State players earned postseason All-Big Ten awards. Senior AJ Weber was named Second Team All-Big Ten, freshman Taylor Korpieski was named to the All-Freshman Team and senior David Ridenhour was named to the All-Big Ten Tournament Team.

Seven Ohio State players were named Academic All-Big Ten following the season. Seniors Sam Migliano and David Ridenhour, juniors Eric Schwebach and Peter Withers and sophomores Jim Fisher, Michael McCarthy and Kevin Nugent received honors for achieving a grade point average over 3.00. All seven players had a GPA of at least 3.10.

2003 BUCKEYE BIG TEN RECAP
Ohio State’s demanding early-season schedule allowed them to finish fourth in the Big Ten last season with a 2-3-1 record. For the tenth consecutive year, Ohio State opened its Big Ten season with a win, defeating Wisconsin, 1-0, Sept. 28 on the road. The Buckeyes then traveled to East Lansing for an Oct. 5 match-up with Michigan State, where Ohio State was defeated, 2-1, in double-overtime. For the first time since 1992 Ohio State played its first two Big Ten contests away from Columbus, but the Buckeyes were 1-1 in the league and ready for a return to Columbus.

The Buckeyes returned home to face defending Big Ten champion Penn State, Oct. 12. Scoring a season-high three goals in the match, OSU defeated the Nittany Lions, 3-1. The Buckeyes then went back on the road to face Indiana, where they were defeated by the eventual national champions, 3-0, Oct. 19. Back in Columbus Oct. 26, the Buckeyes out-shot Northwestern 16 to 11, but were forced to settle for a 1-1 tie in double-overtime. In the final game of the Big Ten regular season, Ohio State fell to Michigan, 1-0, on Nov. 1 in the 87th minute of play, despite out-shooting the Wolverines 13 to 5. The Buckeyes dropped a 2-0 Big Ten tournament quarterfinal match to Wisconsin in Bloomington, Ind., Nov. 13.

COACH BLUEM COMMENTS
Aug. 26, about training camp thus far
“We’re pleased with the results of the first two exhibition games. This team, following last year, needed a bit of a confidence builder here in the preseason to feel good about themselves and build up to the match this weekend against Rutgers, who is ranked 12th in the country, and next weekend against Wake Forest and North Carolina, who are both ranked high, too.

“The attacking side of things has gone well. We’re creating a lot of good opportunities. The finishing isn’t as sharp as I’d like it to be, so that’s something we’ll continue to work on. Defensively, we haven’t been stretched that much yet, so we’re still trying to learn. We’ve been experimenting with a lot people in the back trying to settle on who the back four are going to be.

“Everywhere the depth of this team is very good and the guys know that, too. The guys know that when people come off the bench we don’t lose that much when they come in. That’s a good thing. We’ll have a lot of options and ways we can play and be able to withstand injuries and play people who are in good form.”

Aug. 26, about the match Friday vs. Rutgers
“I don’t think we’re going to approach it as just a friendly where we’re playing people just to see what they can do. I think with a couple more days of training, by Friday night we’ll have a pretty good set plan what might be our best lineup come Sept. 3 and we’ll give that a serious look against Rutgers. Rutgers is a quality opponent and if we can get a good result against them that will be a real boost going into next weekend.”

May 28, about the 2004 season
“We have good depth at all of the positions. The question mark may be, who is going to step up and win the job as our defenders. Which players are going to show that they deserve to be on the field defensively and where are they going to play. That will be the main thing we need to resolve. When it comes to our midfielders and forwards, we have the coaches’ dilemma of too many good players. We are going to have to do the best job we can to keep it balanced.

“I am excited about the freshmen that are coming in. I’m pleased with the seniors and the other upperclassmen. I think we’re going to be a good team that will really turn things around from last year.”

May 28, about Ohio State’s versatility in 2004
“We are going to have to experiment a little bit in some different shapes to see what works out best. The goal is to get the best 10 players on the field. I think we’re going to be able to play a number of different systems, which will make us more dangerous and more flexible. If another team plays a certain way, we can adapt our system to theirs so that we are tactically prepared to play that particular team. I think we’ll have the types of players and the versatility to do that.”

May 28, about the 2004 schedule
“We have a challenging schedule again. The preseason schedule is very good because they’re good opponents that play different styles, so we’ll get to play against different shapes and systems in preseason. They’re all here in Columbus, which is good the way it worked out because we’re not running around all over the place. We’re going to have a good preseason because everyone is going to play a lot and we’re going to figure out the best way for us to play.

“We’re going to have three good, quality games under our belt (before the regular season starts), including a good Rutgers team that went to the round of 16 last year, at Crew Stadium, before we play two teams that will probably be ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason poll in Wake Forest and North Carolina. So those first five games can become very pivotal for us in terms of setting the standard of where this team is going to go and what it is going to accomplish. If we can get through those preseason games and not only do we have to play well and learn about ourselves but win them. We have to develop a winning mentality in our team. That will start with these three exhibition games and hopefully it will carries into the opening tournament, because with the quality of opposition in that tournament, if you win, win and tie or even split during the weekend you will have beaten a nationally ranked team and a perennial NCAA contender, so that will kick us off to a good start.

“So the first quarter of the season, those five games, are very important for that reason. The next two tournaments will be good competition and will be good to get on the road. Traveling together sometimes helps a team bond. Those will be good tournaments and that will be the next part of the season. Then you hit the conference season with a few non-league games mixed in.”

May 28, on the 2004 Big Ten season
“We want to do better in the conference than we have done. The Big Ten was the second-rated conference in the nation last year behind the ACC, and we open with two ACC teams so that should set the stage for our own conference. The conference is outstanding. Every game can go either direction. In all three quarterfinal matches last season there were switched results from the regular season.

“The league is going to be very tight and very difficult. We need to set a goal of finishing with a league record above .500 to give us a better seeding in the conference tournament. We need to put ourselves in position go to the conference tournament and go a little further. The last three years we have been knocked out in the quarterfinal round, so there is an area where we would like to see a change happen.”

OSU PLAYER COMMENTS
Eric Schwebach, Aug. 25, on the OSU defense vs. Robert Morris and Pittsburgh
“Defensively, our goal was to get two shutouts. We gave up that fluke goal to Robert Morris so our goal against Pittsburgh was to come out and get a clean sheet. We were especially happy about it because we have new guys coming in and have been trying new formations. The fact that we were able to keep them scoreless builds confidence and helps us out as we move forward.”

Eric Schwebach, Aug. 25, on the rebuilding of the OSU defense after losing three starters
“I didn’t know that much about the guys coming in but I wasn’t that worried because I knew we had so much potential on this team. We have so many guys that are versatile so I knew it would be just a matter of time to find the right combination.”

Justin Cook, Aug. 25, on the status of the OSU offense and returning to the lineup
“We have looked solid. We have a lot of young guys that can play the ball around and get into scoring positions. It’s really nice not to have to watch this year and I think it helps out a lot to be able to get in there and mix it up a little bit and have the young guys see that. We have good leadership from the older guys and the young guys are really stepping up.”

BUCKEYE PROMOTION NOTES
At the conclusion of every Ohio State home match, Buckeye players will be available for autographs at the south end of Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Kids, to register for your chance to be an honorary captain at a future Buckeye home men’s soccer game, visit ohiostatebuckeyes.com.