INTERSTATE 90 – The Ohio State women’s soccer team left Thursday via charter express for the six-hour trip to State College, Pa., and an NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament first-round game against Hofstra. Some thoughts from the road…
12:50 p.m. – Departure
The bus departs Columbus with a total of 30 student-athletes, coaches, trainers, a video technician and two members of the athletics department. Oh yea: can’t forget Steve the bus driver. He’s with us, too. Coach Lori Walker introduces those who are first-time travelers with the soccer team. The team, decked out in scarlet warm-ups and various styles of gray polo and tee- and long-sleeve shirts, is most gracious to the strangers and the student-athletes do a nice job of making everyone feel welcome.
1:20 p.m. Study table
After a lunch of Subway sandwiches with either Gatorade and/or water to drink, Walker tells the team that “study table” is now in session and naps will have to wait. This team practices in the a.m., so they’ve already gotten a good workout behind them. Regardless, the books open. So does the sky. It’s raining and judging by the thick grayness of the skies, it looks as if it could rain for a long time.
2:50 p.m. Chillin’
The 90-minute study session is over and everyone kicks back and settles into the ride. Athletics teams are experienced travelers and the comfort measures are abundant: iPods, laptops, DVDs, magazines, books, pillows, blankets, snacks. Perhaps the most important “comfy”: friends. It is obvious this is a team of friends who like each other, who like their coaches and who are thrilled to be going back to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in six years. This is the first NCAA for the vast majority of team members. They are truly enjoying the experience. And they should, because making the NCAA Tournament is not easy, in any sport. The Ohio State men’s soccer and cross country teams also made their respective NCAA fields and will compete in the coming weeks. They, too, know what kind of an effort it takes to get this far.
“It was very difficult to do and we just can’t take making the NCAA Tournament for granted,” Caitlin Colfer, a junior who has played on two Ohio State teams that did not make the NCAAs, said after the team found out it was in the tournament.
It has stopped raining and the sun is shining. Heading east…to Happy Valley.
5:30 p.m. Play time
At the end of some movie about a wedding, two of the team’s three tri-captains, seniors Amanda Ball and Keiana Mitchell, lead a Q&A game from the middle of the bus. They divided the team into two sides and went down the aisle asking questions that one person from each side had to answer. Here’s what we learned: who on the team detests “hairballs” in the dorm room; who hates scary movies; who likes the Counting Crows; who on the team sometimes only eats cheese during the preseason; who is afraid of bridges; who is in a new relationship. In the spirit of “the game,” what was learned on the bus, stays on the bus. It is believed that the team sitting on the right side won.
6:40 p.m. Arrival
The Buckeyes’ bus arrived in State College after just short of six hours on the road. Heading straight to dinner, Steve the bus driver took a left turn and the chants of “left-left,” and “right-right” started as part of the team wanted to eat at Olive Garden on the left and another part wanted Outback Steakhouse on the right with a few votes for Noodles straight ahead. Just like “the game,” the right was victorious again. The team dined off the barbie, with Outback getting the business. Four tables were quickly filled. The food was good and everyone appreciated the fact that the ride was over and this business of an NCAA soccer game was becoming even more of a reality now that the Buckeyes were in town.
8:30 p.m. Check in
After a nice piece of driving by Steve, who expertly negotiated some tight streets to get the bus alongside the hotel, the team checked into its hotel and settled in for the evening. Morning will come early so the team will make rest their friend and the coaches have tape to watch. Good night. Go Bucks.