Buckeyes’ riding school-record eight-game unbeaten streak

Owning the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Championship for the fourth-consecutive season, the 18th-ranked Ohio State men’s soccer team travels to East Lansing, Mich., this weekend for the Big Ten Championship.

Michigan State serves as host of the championship at Old College Field, where the Buckeyes ended the regular season last Sunday with a 2-0 win over the 18th-ranked Spartans.

Ohio State is 11-3-4 overall and finished the Big Ten schedule with a 4-1-1 league record. The Buckeyes own a school-record eight-game unbeaten streak (6-0-2) since their last loss, Sept. 29 at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

Ohio State takes on No. 7 seed Michigan at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in the second of three quarterfinal matches. On the same side of the bracket, No. 3 seed Northwestern and No. 6 seed Wisconsin open the tournament with a quarterfinal match at 9 a.m. Thursday.  The winners will meet at 11 a.m. Friday.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 4 seed Penn State and No. 5 seed Michigan State meet in the last quarterfinal game Thursday (2 p.m.), with the winner advancing to a 1:30 p.m. semifinal match Friday against No. 1 seed Indiana.

The championship game will kick off at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The NCAA tournament begins a week later this season, which means there will be an off week between the conclusion of the Big Ten Championship Sunday and the NCAA tournament selection show Nov. 19.

The first round of the tournament is scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 23, while the second round will be held the middle of the following week, most likely Nov. 28. The Top 16 teams in the tournament will have a first-round bye. The Buckeyes were ranked No. 7 in the national Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) report last week before a 1-1 tie at the RPI’s No. 33 team Louisville, and a 2-0 win at the RPI’s No. 29 team, Michigan State.

The Big Ten Network and CSTV will televise the 2007 Big Ten Championship, providing television coverage of the semifinals and finals for the first time in conference history.

The semifinals will be aired live by the Big Ten Network on Friday at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The championship contest will be played Sunday at 2 p.m. with both Big Ten Network and CSTV providing live coverage.

GameTracker will have all six games of the Big Ten Championship live at In addition, if the Buckeyes advance to the championship game Sunday, the Ohio State student radio station will call the game live online at

Ohio State enters the Big Ten Championship as the No. 2 seed for the fourth-consecutive season. Last year, the Buckeyes hosted the event and advanced to the championship game against Indiana (lost 1-0) after beating Michigan State (3-1) and Michigan (1-0).

Ohio State is 4-5 as the No. 2 seed at the Big Ten Championship and 11-15 all-time in the event.

In 2005, Ohio State beat Northwestern in the quarterfinals to snap a four-year skid of falling in the first game of the Big Ten Championship.

The Buckeyes are the No. 2 seed this year for the sixth time since the Big Ten Championship was first played in 1991, joining OSU teams in 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Ohio State owns one Big Ten Championship, that coming as host in 2000.

With the win at Michigan State Sunday, the seven-member Ohio State senior class became the winningest class in the history of the men’s soccer program both in terms of wins (45) and winning percentage (.624). The 2007 OSU seniors are 45-25-11 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 regular-season co-championship (2004), two trips to the NCAA tournament (2004, 2005) and to Ohio State’s first Sweet 16 appearance (2004).

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 (Top 4 all-time at OSU in shutouts and goals against average), forwards Eric Edwards and Ryan Kustos and midfielders Kyle Retzlaff and Steven Traeger.

Senior forward Xavier Balc scored two goals and had an assist last week and was named to three national teams of the week Monday (College Soccer News, Soccer America and Top Drawer Soccer).

Balc’s 12 assists this season lead the Big Ten, are tied for second-most in the nation and are an Ohio State record. Add in four goals and Balc’s 20 points rank second in the Big Ten this season.

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).

The second national Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) report was released by the NCAA Oct. 30 and the Buckeyes checked in at No. 7. All seven members of the Big Ten Conference are in the Top 55 and three were in the Top 10 (No. 3 Northwestern, No. 4 Indiana and No. 7 Ohio State).

Ohio State owns a 6-2-3 record in games against teams in the Top 55 of that RPI report, including wins over No. 26 Michigan, No. 29 Michigan State, No. 32 West Virginia, No. 42 Wisconsin, No. 44 Old Dominion and No. 55 Penn State. The losses were to No. 3 Northwestern and No. 23 UCLA and the ties were all on the road at No. 4 Indiana, No. 12 Akron and No. 33 Louisville.

In the first RPI report Oct. 15, the Buckeyes checked in at No. 13, which ranked third in the Big Ten behind No. 2 Northwestern and No. 8 Indiana.

Ohio State’s current eight-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 eight 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

“We know we’re in good shape right now,” Bluem said last week. “We’re aware of the RPI and where we stand and we have gotten some good results. We thought we were in (the NCAA tournament) a year ago and that didn’t happen, so we are not going to assume anything. The guys are very focused and they know that it’s not done yet and that we still have a lot of work to do. We have to prepare for each of these final three regular-season games as though they’re NCAA tournament games and knock-out games. That kind of focus helps you because you need to play with that kind of intensity and concentration. I think the team has a good handle on what’s necessary and they’re ready to play. They’ll be well-prepared for these last three regular-season games.”

The Buckeyes have scored 28 goals this season (1.6 per game) compared to 15 for their opponents (0.8 per game). Of those 28 goals, 18 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 leads the Big Ten in shots, has out-shot 14 of its 18 opponents and leads that category overall 301-208 (16.7-11.6 per game). The Buckeyes’ shots on goal advantage is 113-77 and their corner kick lead is 125-73.

Twelve Buckeyes have scored a goal and eight players have at least two goals each. Brunner, a defender, along with senior forward Xavier Balc, lead the way with four goals each, while Gabel has three goals. Balc leads the Big Ten and ranks second nationally with 12 assists, which is an Ohio State single-season record. Balc’s 33 career assists are also a school record.

Senior goalkeeper Casey Latchem owns a 0.80 goals-against average and nine shutouts in 18 outings this season and has collected 62 saves.

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.

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.

Ohio State is ranked as high as No. 18 in the national polls this week, that coming from the NSCAA, College Soccer News and Soccer America. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 19 by Soccer Times.

In the NSCAA/adidas Great Lakes Region, Ohio State checks in at No. 4 behind Indiana, Notre Dame and Northwestern. The Buckeyes have been ranked as high as No. 10 in the nation this season (Sept. 10, Soccer Times).

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 (231) and single-season shots (75 in 2006) and ranks fourth all-time in points (71, 19 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.

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 eight-game unbeaten streak, Latchem has allowed only two goals and notched 36 saves. His 21 career shutouts are second all-time at Ohio State (record is 23.5).

Ohio State seniors Eric Brunner and Xavier Balc were teammates this past summer for the Michigan Bucks in the Premier Development League and helped lead their team to the PDL championship game in Laredo, Texas, Aug. 11.

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

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).

Ohio State’s 11-3-4 record this season has come against quality opponents that are a combined 159-110-53 (.576). See the previous note regarding Ohio State in the RPI for top opponents defeated by the Buckeyes this season.

The Buckeyes’ three losses are to teams with a combined record of 28-15-10 (UCLA, Northwestern, Wisconsin-Green Bay).

Although results from exhibition matches do not factor into a team’s record, note that Ohio State played to a 2-2 tie at now-No. 8 Creighton (9-1-5).

Senior Xavier Balc is Ohio State’s all-time leader in career assists (33) and shots (231). He ranks eighth all-time in goals (19) and fourth in points (71). 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’s nine shutouts are tied for third in the OSU single-season record book. Latchem collected 10 shutouts in 2006, which were one shy of the single-season record. His 0.92 career goals against average is currently tied for the best mark in Ohio State history and his 21 career shutouts are second all-time. The record of 23.5 career shutouts is held by Kerry Thompson (1997-2001).

Eleventh-year head coach John Bluem has guided the Buckeyes to two Big Ten titles this decade and all four of the program’s NCAA tournament appearances (2000, 2001, 2004, 2005). 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 112-80-27 (.573) at Ohio State. His win total and win percentage are school records. Overall, his career record stands at 198-107-38 (.633), which includes six seasons at Fresno State.

The Big Ten preseason coaches’ poll was released Aug. 17 and the Buckeyes checked in at No. 3 below Indiana and Northwestern. It marked the fifth-consecutive season the Hoosiers were picked to win the league after winning their 11th conference title last year with a 1-0 win over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game.

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.

The Buckeyes are 50-20-11 (.685) 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.
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,