Oct. 26, 2005

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In the first of two home games to end the regular season, the Ohio State men’s soccer team hosts Northwestern at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The Buckeyes (8-6-2, 1-2-1 Big Ten) are ranked 10th in the NSCAA Great Lakes region, while the Wildcats (8-4-2, 1-2-1 Big Ten) are ranked No. 6 in the same poll. Both teams are tied for fifth in the conference standings.

Ohio State’s student radio station, The Underground, will have the match live online at and GameTracker will be available at

The Buckeyes are 3-2-1 in their last six games and are coming off a 1-0-1 week in which they beat Oakland, 3-2, and came back from two goals down on the road to tie No. 6 Indiana, 2-2, in Bloomington Sunday.

“It was a good week,” John Bluem, Ohio State head coach, said. “Like last year, the teams playing good soccer at the end of the season are likely to get an NCAA tournament bid. Last week we got a good, solid win over Oakland Wednesday, and at Indiana was a historic result. It’s not a great result to tie and you don’t go into a game trying to get a tie, but it was a good sign, especially being two goals down. We didn’t give up and got the result. We kept fighting and kept battling and earned it.”

Coming off its best season in school history, Northwestern returned all 11 starters and 24 letterwinners this season and is 2-0-2 in its last four matches, which includes a 1-1 tie at home vs. Indiana.

Ohio State and Northwestern enter their match-up Friday under very similar circumstance that surrounded their game in 2004. In a match that the Buckeyes won in overtime, 2-1, the host Wildcats were ranked No. 3 in the region and No. 25 in the country, while OSU was No. 7 in the region and making a late season surge that would eventually result in a Big Ten regular season co-championship and run to the `Sweet 16′ of the NCAA tournament.

This year, NU is No. 6 in the region, while OSU is No. 10. Both teams are coming off historic seasons in 2004. Ohio State tied the school record for wins a year ago with 12 and its run to the third round of the NCAAs was its best postseason performance in school history. Northwestern, likewise, set school records with 15 wins, a trip to the championship game of the Big Ten tournament and a second-round appearance in the NCAA tournament.

The Buckeyes are 8-6-2 and 1-2-1 in the Big Ten. The push for a postseason bid to the NCAA tournament has begun for Ohio State and a win over Oakland last Wednesday and a tie at No. 6 Indiana Sunday have given OSU momentum heading into a pair of home games to close out the regular season.

“We’re going to talk to the guys about the importance of these next two weeks,” Bluem said. “The message is that we’re not out of anything yet. We can earn a good seed in the Big Ten tournament and put ourselves in position to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if we don’t win the conference tournament.”

Ohio State has out-shot its opponents in 13 of its 16 games and 223-153 for the season. The shots on goal advantage is 98-70. Those statistics were magnified last Sunday in the tie at Indiana when OSU had a 14-12 shot advantage, marking the first time the Hoosiers had been out-shot this season, and the Buckeyes totaled seven shots on goal against an IU team that entered the game averaging only three shots on goal allowed.

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.

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 OSU’s two remaining regular season games. Jeff Svoboda’s call can be heard at

Ohio State is coming off a 2-2 tie at sixth-ranked Indiana last Sunday. The Buckeyes trailed 2-0 after 23 minutes of play, but battled back to tie the two-time defending national champions at Armstrong Stadium, where OSU was 0-20-0 entering the game. The Buckeyes outshot the Hoosiers 14-12 to mark the first time IU had been outshot this season, and Ohio State had seven shots on goal against an Indiana team that came into the game allowing an average of only three.

A Xavier Balc free kick in the 60th minute was headed in by Reid Traeger for OSU’s first goal, then another Balc free kick glanced off a Hoosier defender into the back of the net for the equalizer in the 83rd minute.

In addition to their overall shot advantage, the Buckeyes lead in corner kicks, 90-62. The Buckeyes have been outscored 8-4 in the first half of games this season, but are outscoring the opposition 14-9 in the second half. Eight of Ohio State’s games have gone to overtime, where OSU has won in the first extra session three times, lost in the second OT period twice and played to a draw twice.

In the Big Ten, Ohio State ranks second in shots (13.9 spg), fourth in goals (1.31 gpg) and fifth in goals allowed per game (1.25 gapg). The Buckeyes rank No. 2 in corner kicks (5.6 ckpg). Among individual leaders, forwards Kevin Nugent and Xavier Balc rank in the Top 10 in points, goals, assists and shots. Midfielder Danny Irizarry joins them on the assists lists. Goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr. is No. 5 in saves (49) and No. 5 in goals against average (1.18).

A pair of starting midfielders for the Buckeyes, juniors Taylor Korpieski and Rob Strachan, will miss the rest of 2005 after suffering season-ending injuries.

“We have lost Robbie and Taylor for the rest of the year, so we will need to have guys step up,” Bluem said. “I’m glad the spacing of our next two games is such that we’ll have time to heal up some of our other guys who are banged up and get organized.”

All 11 starters returned for Northwestern this season after the Wildcats had their best season in school history a year ago. NU went 15-6-2 overall and 3-2-1 in the Big Ten that included a 1-0 win at Indiana that ended the Hoosiers’ 50-match conference winning streak. NU went on to advance to the championship game of the Big Ten tournament (lost to Michigan State, 1-0) and beat Western Illinois 4-1 in the NCAA tournament before falling to Creighton, 3-2, in the second round.

The Wildcats (8-4-2, 1-2-1 Big Ten) started out 3-4 through their first seven games but are 6-2-2 since, with a Big Ten win over Michigan State before tying Indiana, 1-1. The Wildcats are 0-2-0 on the road in the conference (at Michigan, at Penn State). NU has taken the fewest shots in the league (11.5 spg) but rank second in goals per game (1.5 gpg). The Wildcats have six shutouts and have been shut out just once.

Junior Brad North leads Northwestern in scoring with seven goals, which rank second in the Big Ten. Sophomore David Roth set the Big Ten assists record last year with 14 and has a team-leading six in 2005. Junior Gerardo Alvarez, who led the conference in scoring last year, has three goals and two assists so far this season. Senior Brad Napper, a first-team All-Big Ten defender last year, is also back.

Tim Lenahan is in his fifth season at Northwestern. He is 39-42-13 in Evanston and 165-110-33 in his career.

The Buckeyes lead the all-time series against Northwestern, 14-2-2 and own a 12-game unbeaten streak (11-0-1) against the Wildcats. In Columbus, Ohio State is 6-1-1 against NU, with the loss coming in 1993 and the tie in 2003. Listed below are the last seven meetings between OSU and NU.

Year Location Winner Score 2004 Evanston Ohio State 2-1 ot 2003 Columbus tie 1-1 2ot 2002 Evanston Ohio State 2-0 2001 Columbus Ohio State 2-1 2000 Evanston Ohio State 2-0 1999 Columbus Ohio State 5-0 1998 Evanston Ohio State 3-0

Northwestern senior Dave Vargas and Ohio State freshman Geoff Marsh are from North Olmsted, Ohio. Vargas attended St. Ignatius and Marsh went to North Olmsted H.S. OSU freshman Tim Gabel is from Wildwood, Mo., just outside St. Louis, which is the hometown of three Wildcats – sophomore David Roth, freshman Geoff Fallon and freshman Tim Weir. Gabel and Fallon were teammates in club soccer for Scott Gallagher and together won the national club championship in 2004. Gabel (Lafayette H.S.) played against Weir (University H.S.) in the state quarterfinals last year. Three players in the game are from California, including Ohio State junior Antonio Garcia (Santa Rosa) and sophomore Ben Oliver (Chula Vista) and Northwestern senior Eric Brin (Westlake).

Northwestern is the only Big Ten school that does not share any non-conference opponents with Ohio State this season. The two teams have both faced three of the same league foes so far this year. OSU is 0-2-1 against those three teams, while NU is 1-1-1 (see below).

Opponent OSU result NU result Michigan State L, 2-0 W, 2-0 Penn State L, 1-0 (2ot) L, 4-1 Indiana T, 2-2 (2ot) T, 1-1 (2ot)

The Buckeyes beat then-No. 25 Northwestern 2-1 in overtime Oct. 29, 2004, in Evanston, Ill. Ohio State’s goals were scored by then-freshman Ryan Kustos and senior captain Justin Cook. The win improved Ohio State’s record to 8-5-2 and guaranteed the Buckeyes a No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

“Northwestern is a tough team to play against and they defend very well,” Bluem said after the game. “For us to knock off the No. 3 team in our region for the second week in a row (Oakland the previous week) is very satisfying. We must be considered one of the top teams in the region now.”

Ray Burse Jr. is 8-6-1 in goal for the Buckeyes with a 1.18 goals-against average and 49 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 Sept. 25.

The Defense
Three Buckeyes have started all 16 matches in the defense for Ohio State and lead the team in minutes played, including Jim Fisher (1,513 min.), Dustin Kirby (1,521 min.) and Eric Brunner (1,378 min.). Kyle Veris split time between defender and forward early in the season but has started the last eight games in the defense, where he was a first-team All-Big Ten selection a year ago.

The Midfield
The depth and versatility of Ohio State’s midfield has been tested lately because of injuries to central midfield starters Taylor Korpieski, Brent Rohrer and Rob Strachan. Rohrer is back and teams in the middle with freshman Danny Irizarry, who owns two goals and shares the team lead in assists with four. Junior Antonio Garcia has also seen extensive time in the center, while on the flanks are sophomore Ryan Kustos on the right and freshmen Geoff Marsh on the left.

Kevin Nugent leads the team in scoring with six goals and four 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 14 points from five goals and four assists. Chief backups have included Reid Traeger, David Bauer, Eric Edwards, and Kyle Veris up from his normal spot in the defense.

Ohio State is unranked in the national polls but is No. 10 in 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 are 7-0-0 when they score first … Jim Fisher has been nominated for the Academic All-America team (3.42 GPA in finance) … a feature article on senior goalkeeper Ray Burse Jr. now appears at … interviews with Kevin Nugent and Xavier Balc will be part of College Sports Television’s hour-long special “Ohio State Prime Time,” which is set to air on CSTV Sunday at 9:30 p.m. (replayed at 3 p.m. Monday, 12:30 p.m. Tuesday and 2 p.m. Thursday) … of OSU’s 16 games so far this season, eight have gone to overtime … the combined record of OSU’s opponents this season is 126-107-34, 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 six games this season and OSU is 5-0-1 in those games … OSU played five consecutive road games from Sept. 9-23, and went 4-1-0 in those games … OSU’s 2-1 win in overtime at Wisconsin Oct. 2 marked the Buckeyes’ 12th-consecutive win in their Big Ten opener.

Friday night is Student Night at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU students will be admitted free with a Buck-ID and the first 200 students will get a free hot dog. Friday is also Fright Night, as kids eighth grade and under in their Halloween costume will be admitted free.

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 also has two, those coming in OSU’s season opener against Marquette Sept. 2 and vs. Oakland, Sept. 19. 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 junior defender Dustin Kirby has started all 57 games for the Buckeyes since his arrival at OSU. That total includes all 20 games as a freshman, 21 as a sophomore and the 16 games so far in 2005. Junior defender Jim Fisher owns the next-most consecutive starts with 36. Junior midfielder Brent Rohrer has played in all 57 games since his arrival, but was not in the starting lineup just four times.

Following the Northwestern game Friday, Ohio State plays its last regular season games next Friday at home at 7:30 p.m. against Michigan. The Big Ten tournament will be held Nov. 10-13 at Northwestern.

Oct. 21, before the Indiana game
“We haven’t got a result over there in my tenure as coach. We’ve played them well on occasion and lost by just a goal, but we haven’t had any ties or wins. They’re very good and an attacking team. When they get it going, they are as dangerous as any team in the country.”

Oct. 21, on his team heading into the IU game
“I wish we were healthier than we are right now. Rob (Strachan) is gone for the year now and Taylor (Korpieski) hasn’t returned to training yet and isn’t available this weekend. We have others are a little beat up, but I’m very optimistic we can do well in these next three games. “To have a shot at an at-large big, we will need to take care of business at home. Certainly if we can win at Indiana and win the final two games that makes a much stronger case. Either way, the team would like to have a good performance in the Big Ten tournament. That’s something we haven’t done well in the last few years and we’ve challenged the team to focus on that and do better there. Whatever our draw happens to be it doesn’t matter, it’s about how you play.”

Jim Fisher, junior defender
On the comeback at Indiana Sunday
“We didn’t come out with very much intensity in the first half. We got down two goals and at halftime talked about that our season was on the line and we needed to step up.”

On the remaining two regular season games
“We need two wins the next two weeks. If we can get that done, it’ll put us in good position for the Big Ten tournament and we’ll get a higher seed.”

Ryan Kustos, sophomore midfielder
On the comeback at Indiana last Sunday
“In the second half we came out much harder and worked really hard to get those two goals back.”

On the remaining two regular season games
“We know that Northwestern and Michigan are good teams and those will both be tough games. We need to go into those games with the same intensity that we had in the second half at Indiana.”

### Go Bucks! ###