Aug. 23, 2006

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – After a win and a tie in the preseason, the 2006 regular-season begins this weekend in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium for the Ohio State men’s soccer team with The Bert and Iris Wolstein Soccer Classic Hosted by The Ohio State University. The four-team Classic field is comprised of the Buckeyes, 13th-ranked Penn State, Hartwick and Furman.

Defending Big Ten champion Penn State takes on Furman at 5 p.m. Friday followed by a 7:30 p.m. match featuring the Buckeyes and the alma mater of OSU head coach John Bluem, Hartwick, which has made 23 trips to the NCAA tournament and been in the Final Four seven times. In 2002 Bluem was inducted into the Hartwick Hall of Fame.

The Classic concludes Sunday when the Nittany Lions and Hawks meet at noon, followed by the Ohio State-Furman match at 2:30 p.m.

GameTracker will have all four matches live at

With 17 returning letterwinners and eight starters back, the Buckeyes went 1-0-1 in the preseason, playing to a 1-1 tie with Dayton and topping Bradley 2-0 last Friday in the sixth-annual College Cup Preview Match in Crew Stadium. OSU was picked third in the Big Ten preseason coaches’ poll.

This year marks the ninth time under 10th-year head coach John Bluem that the Buckeyes have hosted an early season tournament, but it is first Classic honoring the Wolsteins, who first brought professional soccer to Ohio in 1979.

From 1979 to 1988 Bert L. Wolstein (deceased 2004) was the owner and president of the Cleveland Force, a professional indoor soccer team in the Major Indoor Soccer League. Since then, the Wolstein’s support of athletics has included a major contribution in 2001 to the Ohio Stadium renovation project, which prompted the dedication of the Iris S. and Bert L. Wolstein Football Center in the southeast tower.

“We are very pleased that Iris has allowed us to name our tournament in her and Bert’s honor,” Bluem said. “Their support of The Ohio State University, the sport of soccer and various other worthy causes is astonishing.”

The Buckeyes are 10-7-1 all-time in their early-season tournament.

In its two preseason games, Ohio State held a 3-1 goal differential and an impressive 47-18 shot advantage.

The Buckeyes were 11-8-2 overall last year and finished second in the Big Ten regular season standings at 3-2-1. Ohio State then made its second-consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, where a 1-0 loss at No. 18 Santa Clara ended OSU’s season.

The Buckeyes return ten of their Top 12 scorers from last season and have two All-Big Ten selections back, including defender Dustin Kirby and midfielder Brent Rohrer. Led by Kirby, OSU returns two other starters in the defense and, led by Rohrer, all four starters in the midfield. Leading scorer Kevin Nugent graduated and took with him 20 points from last season, including four game-winning goals. Junior Xavier Balc, a third-team all-region pick last year, is back after a five-goal, eight-assist season.

Along with Nugent, departed starters include goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr. and defender Kyle Veris, both of whom were third-round MLS draft picks last January. Junior Casey Latchem will take over the goalkeeping duties and keep the Buckeyes in good hands there, while starting defenders Kirby, Jim Fisher and Eric Brunner will look for a fourth member of their group, most likely sophomore Tim Gabel.

Ohio State has gone to the NCAA tournament four of the last six seasons, won a Big Ten title (2000) and a league regular-season co-championship (2004) and has produced six MLS draft picks.

Ohio State was picked third in the Big Ten preseason coaches’ poll, released this week by the league office. Seven-time national champion Indiana was selected first, while defending Big Ten champ Penn State was second. The seven teams, in order, include: 1. Indiana, 2. Penn State, 3. Ohio State, 4. Wisconsin, 5. Michigan State, 6. Michigan, 7. Northwestern.

In preparation for the 2006 season, Ohio State went on a 10-day trip to Germany in June, where the Buckeyes won all three of their exhibition matches with a +13 goal differential. The travel party also attended three World Cup matches and went on numerous sight-seeing and team-building excursions.

Though winning is not a top priority for Bluem in exhibition matches, the Buckeyes went 1-0-1 in the preseason, which included a tie at home with Dayton Aug. 13 and a 2-0 win over Bradley last Friday in Columbus Crew Stadium.

Against Dayton, Ohio State’s Andrew Magill broke a scoreless tie with a goal in the 88th minute, but Dayton scored the equalizer off a corner kick with four seconds remaining to steal a tie. OSU outshot the Flyers 22-11 and had nine shots on goal compared to just two for the visitors. In the win over Bradley, an NCAA tournament team a year ago, the Buckeyes outshot the Braves 25-7, including 7-0 on-goal, and got second half goals from Ryan Kustos (assist from Xavier Balc and Eric Brunner) and Antonio Garcia (unassisted).

Considering Ohio State annually boasts one of the Big Ten’s best defenses, it was no surprise when a pair of defenders were announced as the Buckeyes’ 2006 co-captains last week. Seniors Jim Fisher and Dustin Kirby were selected by their teammates during preseason camp and will wear the captains’ bands this season. Fisher has started 36 consecutive matches, while Kirby has started all but one match (61) since his arrival at OSU. Both are Academic All-Big Ten honorees.

Traditional soccer power Hartwick, located in East-central New York state, made their 23rd NCAA tournament appearance last season and have 10 starters back from a 13-6-1 team that won the Atlantic Soccer Conference. Three of the program’s NCAA tournament trips came with Bluem at fullback (1972-74), including one of its seven Final Four berths. Ian McIntyre is in his fourth season as head coach.

Furman was 8-8-4 last season and, like Ohio State, has eight starters back for 10th-year head coach Doug Allison. The Paladins, which advanced to the third-round of the NCAA tournament in 2002, own 17 Southern Conference titles. Midfielder Dominic Cianciarulo and defender Jon Leathers were preseason All-SoCon picks.

Penn State, which went undefeated and untied in Big Ten play last year and won its third Big Ten title, returns nine starters for 19th-year head coach Barry Gorman. The Nittany Lions return four All-Big Ten selections in forward Simon Omekanda, goalkeeper Conrad Taylor, defender Markku Viitanen and forward Jason Yeisley.

Ohio State and Hartwick have met twice, but this will be their first meeting in Columbus. In 2003, the Hawks took a 1-0 win at the Penn State/Nike Classic, while in 2004 the two teams played to a 1-1 tie at the Mayor’s Cup Tournament in Hartwick’s hometown of Oneonta, N.Y.

Current Buckeyes to register a point against Hartwick include Xavier Balc, who had an assist in the 2004 tie.

Ohio State and Furman have also met twice, with the Buckeyes holding a 1-0-1 advantage that includes a 1-0 win in overtime last year in the title game of the Paladins’ tournament. In 1998 these two teams played to a 0-0 tie in Columbus in the final season before Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium opened.

In the OSU win last season, Eric Brunner scored the game-winner, assisted by Danny Irizarry.

Ohio State head coach John Bluem is a 1975 graduate of Hartwick College and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2002 after helping lead the Hawks to the NCAA tournament three times and to the Final Four in 1974. Natives of northeast Atlanta are Ohio State sophomore Danny Irizarry (Norcross/Greater Atlanta Christian), freshman Benjamin Frasher (Alpharetta/Milton) and Hartwick senior Kenny Rodriguez (Lilburn/Parkview). Six Furman players are from Georgia and three played club or ODP soccer with Irizarry and Frasher, including Phillip Raby (Alpharetta/Centennial), Chris Davis (Duluth) and Jon Leathers (Athens/Christian).

Head coach John Bluem has guided the Buckeyes to 10 or more wins in seven of his nine seasons at OSU and to all four of the program’s NCAA tournament appearances. 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 90-70-20 (.555) at Ohio State. His win total and win percentage are school records. Overall, his career record stands at 176-97-32 (.630), which includes six seasons at Fresno State. His winning percentage is ranked No. 29 among all active coaches.

On their way to an 11-8-2 season, the Buckeyes statistically outperformed their opponents in nearly every category. OSU outshot its opponent in 17 of 21 games and 279-198 for the season. The shots on-goal advantage was 120-87. The Buckeyes also led in corner kicks, 109-82.

When Ohio State scored first, the team was a perfect 10-0-0. Overall, the Buckeyes were outscored 10-5 in the first half during the season and led at halftime only twice, but they outscored the opposition 17-12 in the second half. Eight of OSU’s games went into overtime, where the Buckeyes were 3-3-2.

Among active players, junior Xavier Balc appears in the OSU career record book twice. He ranks tied for seventh in career assists (12) and eighth in career shots (99). See page 54-55 in the media guide for complete records.

Seniors Brent Rohrer and Dustin Kirby were second-team All-Big Ten picks last year, while Taylor Korpieski received the same honor as a sophomore in 2004 before injuries cut short his junior season. Junior Xavier Balc was a third-team all-region selection last year. Three current Buckeyes have been named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen Team in their careers, including Korpieski, Balc and sophomore Danny Irizarry.

Ohio State said goodbye to four seniors from last year’s team who helped lead the Buckeyes to 38 wins over the last four years, which tied for the fourth-most by one class in program history. Forward Kevin Nugent and goalkeeper Ray Burse were three-year starters, while defender Kyle Veris was a two-year starter and two-time All-Big Ten pick after transferring from Akron. Midfielder Reid Traeger started four of the last five games last season and was an important part of the midfield.

Ohio State owns a 37-16-9 (.669) record in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium since the facility opened for the 1999 season. The Buckeyes will play host to the 2006 Big Ten Championship there Nov. 2-5. OSU was 4-3-1 at JOMS last season. OSU’s best season at JOMS was in 2002 with a 7-1-1 record and facility-best six-game winning streak. The JOMS attendance record is 2,081 vs. Indiana, Oct. 24, 2004.

Six Buckeyes have been Major League Soccer draft picks since 2003. Last January in the 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.

### GO BUCKS! ###