Balc, Brunner and Espinoza are first-team All-Big selections; Irizarry, Gold and Marsh also earn honors
COLUMBUS, Ohio The Big Ten men’s soccer coaches have selected Ohio State senior forward Xavier Balc as the 2007 Big Ten Player of the Year, the league announced Thursday night at the Big Ten Championship banquet in East Lansing, Mich. Balc is the second Buckeye to be named the conference player of the year, joining Justin Cook in 2004 when Cook led Ohio State to a Big Ten regular-season co-championship and to the Sweet 16’ of the NCAA tournament.
Joining Balc on the first-team squad were Ohio State senior defender Eric Brunner and junior midfielder Roger Espinoza. Junior midfielder Danny Irizarry was a second-team selection, while midfielder Matt Gold was named to the all-freshman team and junior Geoff Marsh was Ohio State’s recipient of the Sportsmanship Award.
Balc leads the Big Ten and ranks second in the nation in assists with 12 and added four goals for 20 points, which were second-most in the league. Those 12 assists set an Ohio State single-season record and he is also the program’s career assists leader with 33.
“This is certainly a fantastic honor considering the quality of players in the Big Ten,” John Bluem, Ohio State head coach, said. “There is no doubt that Xavier’s statistics this year and last year along the outstanding contributions he makes to our team from an attacking standpoint make this a much-deserved honor for him. And to be recognized now with only one other player in Ohio State history, that is an honor and we are extremely happy for Xavier.”
Ohio State is 10-0-1 this season when Balc has a point and 28-3-2 during the last three seasons when he has a point. Balc has scored or assisted on 17 of the Buckeyes’ 29 goals this season, including nine of the last 11.
Brunner, Ohio State’s first MAC Hermann Trophy candidate, joined Balc as two of five unanimous selections to the first team. Brunner has scored four goals this season, three of which have been game-winners and his work as a central defender has helped the Buckeyes allow only three goals in their current school-record nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2). Espinoza has contributed two goals and two assists and ranks second on the team in shots with 42. He owns one game-winner in his first season at Ohio State after transferring last summer.
Brunner and Balc are repeat first-team All-Big Ten honorees.
Irizarry, Ohio State’s attacking midfielder, has contributed much more than his one goal and one assist would lead the casual fan to believe, something the Big Ten coaches know all too well. He battled through a leg injury in the middle of the season to remain the spark in the midfield that sets up the OSU offense.
Gold, Ohio State’s defensive midfielder, has started every game but one this season and has notched two goals and one assist. One of his goals was the game-winner at Wisconsin Oct. 13.
After beating No. 7 seed Michigan, 1-0, Thursday in the quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Ohio State takes on No. 3 seed and 14th-ranked Northwestern at 11 a.m. Friday in the Big Ten Championship semifinals. The match will be televised live by the Big Ten Network and live stats will be available at www.MSUSpartans.com.
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