COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 23 Ohio State women’s soccer team edged Michigan State, 1-0, clinching at least a share of the first Big Ten Conference title in program history on Senior Night Friday evening at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. With the win, the Buckeyes improve to 14-4-1 on the season, 8-2-0 in the conference and have earned the Big Ten’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“I’m so proud of this team,” head coach Lori Walker said. “They came out so strong at the beginning of the season and hit their midseason stride. The seniors did a great job leading us to the end and it’s an unbelievable moment for the program.”
The Buckeyes took the lead in the 14th minute on Paige Maxwell‘s team-leading 10th goal of the season. Kristen Niederhaus found Lauren Granberg with a long ball down the right flank and Granberg found Maxwell in the middle of the box where the junior snuck her shot inside the far post past Michigan State goalkeeper Elizabeth Watza.
Five minutes later, Maxwell had another opportunity but Watza made the save on a header from inside the six-yard box. Just after that, Granberg tried a bicycle kick from 10 yards out that sailed just over the crossbar.
In the 32nd minute, Danica Wu just missed a chance to extend the lead when her left-footed shot from just outside the 18-yard box sailed inches left of goal. With just under five minutes remaining in the first half, Kendyl Reed played a beautiful cross to Caitlyn Martin but Watza made a diving save on the header from six-yards out.
The Buckeyes took a 1-0 lead into the break, outshooting the Spartans 7-3, including 4-0 on goal.
Wu had another excellent opportunity less than three minutes into the second half but her shot from the top of the box narrowly missed wide left. Five minutes later, Michigan State almost knotted the game off on a shot from 20 yards out by Sarah Stern but Buckeye goalkeeper Katie Baumgardner leaped and deflected the shot just over the crossbar.
With just over 10 minutes remaining, Karin Sendel drilled a shot from 20 yards out but Watza came up big once again, deflecting the shot high. Then, with just under four minutes left, Wu’s shot from the top of the box was deflected by a Spartan defender off the right post and out of harm’s way.
For the game, Ohio State took 13 shots to seven for Michigan State, including 7-3 on goal.
If Penn State wins Sunday against Michigan, the two programs share the championship. If the Nittany Lions lose or tie, the Buckeyes win the championship outright.
The Buckeyes find out their NCAA tournament fate at 4:30 p.m. Monday when the selection show is televised live on ESPNU.