Oct. 14, 2005

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Two teams in search of a win to bolster their postseason aspirations meet Sunday when the Ohio State men’s soccer team hosts Penn State at 2 p.m. in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The Buckeyes (7-5-1, 1-1-0 Big Ten) are aiming to begin another late season surge, while the Nittany Lions (5-6-2, 3-0-0 Big Ten) hope to remain atop the conference standings. GameTracker will have the match live at

“We know we have the opportunity to tie for the Big Ten regular season championship again if we finish well,” John Bluem, Ohio State head coach, said. “It is very important for us to get a good result this weekend, not only for that reason, but more important than the Big Ten regular season standings is the overall picture of getting a bid to the NCAA tournament. It is a very important game.”

After four consecutive road games, the Buckeyes play four of their last five games of the regular season at home. Ohio State is coming off a 3-1 win at Louisville Wed. night and has won two of its last three games. Penn State, which hosted and beat Northwestern and Wisconsin last weekend, has had the week to prepare for Ohio State.

GameTracker for all Ohio State home games and selected away matches is available at In addition, OSU’s student radio station, The Underground, will broadcast two upcoming games, including the Northwestern game Oct. 28 and Michigan Nov. 4.

The Buckeyes are 7-5-1 and 1-1-0 in the Big Ten. Though Ohio State has fallen out of the national rankings, where it was as high as No. 11 earlier this season, the Buckeyes are planning on a postseason push like they did a year. In 2004, OSU began the season 3-4-3 but went 9-3-1 the rest of the way to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, where the Buckeyes advanced to the third round.

“We had a bad spell and we were very disappointed with our performance at Michigan State (Oct. 9),” Bluem said. “We just didn’t get it done there. I don’t like making excuses, but it’s tough when you lose your two starting midfield players. We were scrambling that day to find a shape and attack, but with three days to prepare for Louisville (Oct. 12) we were able to get organized.”

Ohio State won five of its first six matches this season, including a 1-0 win over UCLA, as part of one of the best starts in program history. An 0-3-1 skid halted that good start, however, before a 2-1 win at Wisconsin Oct. 2, which gave the Buckeyes a win in their Big Ten opener for the 12th-consecutive year. With the win at Louisville Wed., OSU has won two of its last three games.

“And now we play four of our last five games at home, so we need to take care of business,” Bluem said. “We should be in good shape, but that is the question. The win at Louisville was a good win and we some momentum now.”

Ohio State averages 13.5 shots per game and has out-shot its opponent in 10 of 13 games this season. The Buckeyes have eight starters and 17 lettermen back from its 2004 squad that went 12-7-2, won a share of the Big Ten regular season title and advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament. The Buckeyes are coached by John Bluem, the 2004 Big Ten Coach of the Year and OSU’s all-time winningest coach.

Ohio State and Penn State have seen each other play four times this year but are going up against each other for the first time. The Nittany Lions traveled to the Ohio State Classic Sept. 2-4, while the Buckeyes traveled to the Penn State/Nike Classic Sept. 16-18 (see later note for results).

“When Penn State was here for our tournament, they were missing a few players and didn’t play very well,” Bluem said. “But at their tournament they were very good and should have beat UCLA. And since then they have beat Indiana and Maryland, so Penn State is playing very well right now.”

This week marks the first time since the Sept. 5 national polls that Ohio State is not ranked or receiving votes in any of the national polls or the NSCAA Great Lakes Regional poll. The Buckeyes have been ranked as high as No. 11 (Sept. 19, College Soccer News) in the nation this season and No. 3 in the region.

The Buckeyes hold a 176-126 shot advantage over their opponents and lead in the goals scored department, 16-15. In addition to its shot advantage, Ohio State also has more shots on goal, 73-57 and more corner kicks, 70-53.

In Big Ten statistics as of Oct. 10, Ohio State ranked third in the conference in shots (13.3 spg), tied for third in goals (13) and fifth in goals allowed (14). Individually, Kevin Nugent (11 pts.) and Xavier Balc (10 pts.) rank fifth and seventh, respectively, in the league in scoring and are tied for sixth in the Big Ten in goals scored (4). Nugent and Danny Irizarry are tied for sixth in assists (3). Goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr. ranks fourth in saves (38) and fifth in goals against average (1.11).

Penn State, annually one of the most talented teams in the Big Ten, got off to a slow start this season with an 0-5-1 record in its first six games. Since then, however, the Nittany Lions are 5-2-1 with impressive wins over defending national champion Indiana and NCAA tournament participants Maryland and Northwestern.

Penn State junior Simon Omekanda and freshman Jason Yeisley comprise one of the most dangerous forward tandems in the Big Ten. Yeisley owns six goals (No. 2 in Big Ten) and three assists, while Omekanda has contributed two goals and five assists (tied for No.1 in Big Ten).

The Nittany Lions have 13 letterwinners and seven starters back from 2004, when PSU went 10-4-8 overall, 1-3-2 in the Big Ten and made a first-round exit in the NCAA tournament. Head coach Barry Gorman is in his 18th season at Penn State and owns an overall record of 233-123-31.

Ohio State owns a two-game winning streak over Penn State and is 4-0-1 against the Nittany Lions in the last five meetings in Columbus. Overall, PSU leads the all-time series, 6-12-2, with a 6-2-1 lead over the Buckeyes in University Park, Pa., and a 2-0 advantage on neutral ground. In a total of nine games between these two teams in Columbus, the series is tied 4-4-1.

Ohio State senior Reid Traeger and Penn State sophomore Conrad Taylor are natives of Colorado and both played in the Colorado Rush Soccer Club. Traeger is from Littleton and Taylor is from Colorado Springs, an hour away. OSU freshman Danny Irizarry and PSU freshman Lance Kichler are natives of the Atlanta area. Irizarry is from Lawrenceville and Kichler is from Roswell, 30 minutes away. The two were teammates in the Olympic Development Program, as well in club soccer for the Concorde Fire Club.

The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions have shared six common opponents to date. OSU is 4-2 against those opponents, while PSU is 2-4.

Opponent OSU result PSU result New Mexico L, 1-0 ot L, 2-0 Marquette W, 1-0 L, 1-0 UCLA W, 2-1 L, 1-0 Fullerton W, 1-0 ot W, 2-0 Akron L, 3-0 L, 1-2 Wisconsin W, 1-0 ot W, 1-0 ot

Ohio State took over first place in the Big Ten with a 3-0 shutout at No. 20 Penn State in University Park, Pa., Oct. 17, 2004. Senior captain Justin Cook scored all three Buckeye goals to collect his first career hat trick. The OSU defense held the Nittany Lions to seven total shots and goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr., collected two saves as well as his fourth-consecutive shutout, which tied the OSU record for consecutive shutouts.

“It’s a very big win,” Bluem said after the game. “Our defending was super all day long. We still have three very difficult games ahead of us, but it’s nice to have put together some good results through the first half of the conference season. That will help with our confidence to know that we’re competitive and have a great chance at doing well in the Big Ten.”

Ray Burse Jr. is 7-5-0 in goal for the Buckeyes with a 1.10 goals-against average and 41 saves. He has three shutouts on the season, those coming in his first give games. Casey Latchem has seen action in two games, including a scoreless 65 minutes against Kentucky last Sunday.

The Defense
Ohio State has allowed 15 goals in 13 games this season. Three Buckeyes have started all eight matches in the defense for Ohio State and lead the team in minutes played, including Jim Fisher (1,227 min.), Dustin Kirby (1,217 min.) and Eric Brunner (1,129 min.). Three others have made multiple starts in the back and have contributed in every game, including Kyle Veris (7 starts, 724 min.) and Tim Gabel (5 starts, 466 min.). Brunner and Veris are tied for third on the team in scoring with five points each.

The Midfield
As expected, the depth and versatility of Ohio State’s midfield has proven to be one of the strengths of the team this season. In the central midfield, Taylor Korpieski and Brent Rohrer are the mainstays, with Ryan Kustos, Danny Irizarry, Rob Strachan and Geoff Marsh manning the flanks. Irizarry’s three assists are tied with Nugent for the team-lead and he scored his first goal of the season in the win at Louisville Wed. Marsh has a goal and an assist, Rohrer has one goal, and Kustos has two assists.

Kevin Nugent leads the team in scoring with five goals and three assists. His two game-winners this season have come against Marquette Sept. 2 and Louisville Oct. 12. Xavier Balc ranks second on the team in scoring with 10 points from four goals and two assists. Chief backups have included Reid Traeger, David Bauer, Eric Edwards, and Kyle Veris up from his normal spot in the defense.

The Buckeyes are 6-0-0 when they score first … of OSU’s 13 games so far this season, six have gone to overtime … the combined record of OSU’s opponents this season is 97-86-26, which supports OSU’s strong strength of schedule component … the next shutout turned in by goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr. will be the 12th of his career, which will give him sole possession of fourth place in the OSU record book … Xavier Balc has at least one point in four games this season and OSU is 4-0 in those games … Eric Brunner has at least one point in three games and OSU is 2-0-1 in those games … OSU is 2-0-0 when Jim Fisher has an assist … the Buckeyes have played both of the nation’s two remaining undefeated teams, including No. 1 New Mexico (lost 1-0, ot) and No. 2 Akron (lost 3-0) … OSU played five consecutive road games from Sept. 9-23, and went 4-1-0 in those games … the Buckeyes play four of their final five regular season matches at home before the Big Ten tournament gets underway at Northwestern.

Ohio State is coming off a 3-1 win at Louisville Wednesday night. After a scoreless first half, Buckeyes Kevin Nugent, Danny Irizarry and Geoff Marsh all found the back of the net and OSU defense gave up only a penalty kick goal. The Buckeyes posted a season-high 11 shots on goal and out-shot the Cardinals 16-9 overall. Ray Burse Jr. had three saves.

Six different Buckeyes have netted game-winning goals this season. Sophomore Xavier Balc has two of them, those coming Sept. 9 as part of his hat trick vs. Coastal Carolina and Sept. 18 vs. UCLA. Senior Kevin Nugent has one, that coming in OSU’s season opener against Marquette Sept. 2. Sophomore Eric Brunner had the golden goal in overtime at Furman Sept. 11, and junior Brent Rohrer scored the game-winner in overtime against Wisconsin Oct. 9. Freshman Danny Irizarry rounds out the list, having the game-winner at Louisville Oct. 12.

Ohio State’s 2-1 win in overtime at Wisconsin Oct. 2 marked the Buckeyes’ 12th-consecutive win in their Big Ten opener. The Badgers have been OSU’s opponent in the last four conference openers, while Northwestern provided the opposition eight years prior to that.

Ohio State junior defender Dustin Kirby has started all 54 games for the Buckeyes since his arrival at OSU. That total includes all 20 games as a freshman, 21 as a sophomore and the 13 games so far in 2005. Junior defender Jim Fisher owns the next-most consecutive starts with 33. Junior midfielder Brent Rohrer has played in all 54 games since his arrival, but was not in the starting lineup once each season.

The Buckeyes are coming off the busiest portion of their 2005 schedule, a stretch that included five games in 10 days, with three of those contests going to overtime. Three games in that stretch were on the road, including Sept. 23 at Bowling Green (lost, 3-2, 2 ot), Sept. 30 at Akron (lost 3-0) and the Big Ten opener Oct. 2 at Wisconsin (won 2-1, ot). Two matches were at home, including Sept. 25 vs. Kentucky (tied, 1-1) and Sept. 28 vs. Butler (lost 1-0).

Ohio State knocked off then-No. 17 UCLA Sept. 18 to win the Penn State/Nike Classic and continue to build on one of its bests starts in program history. The win over the four-time national champions was the Buckeyes’ fifth victory over a ranked team since the middle of last October when Ohio State began its run to the NCAA `Sweet 16.’

The Buckeyes were 5-1-0 through their first six matches, which marked one of Ohio State’s best starts in the 53-year program. Among the best starts are 1976 (5-0-1), 1977 (7-0-0), 1986 (5-1-2), 1987 (4-1-1), 1996 (5-1-0), 2000 (6-1-1), and 2001 (6-0-1).

Ohio State returns to action Wednesday night when the Buckeyes host Oakland at 7 p.m. in OSU’s final non-conference game of the season.

### Go Bucks! ###