WHO: Maryland Terrapins @ Ohio State Buckeyes
WHAT: Women's soccer B1G Conference game
WHERE: Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, Columbus, OH
WHEN: Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 7:00 pm
WATCH: In person
If we were to make an analogy between the Big Ten women's soccer season and a horse race, Saturday evening's game between the Maryland Terrapins and Ohio State Buckeyes marks the transition from the back stretch into the final turn. Both squads have passed the halfway mark and have six conference contests remaining. The Terrapins sit in seventh place - directly in the middle of the conference standings - while the Buckeyes look to move up from ninth.
Both teams will be looking to pick up a win after playing to ties in their most recent games. Objectively, Ohio State's 1-1 tie at Minnesota likely has a bit more quality than Maryland's 0-0 tie against Indiana in College Park. Not only did the Buckeyes score a goal but they managed a tie on the road against a team that sits one spot above them in the conference standings. The Terps failed to score for the fifth time this season and only managed a tie on their home field against the cellar dwellers from Bloomington.
Maryland has been plagued by inconsistent play in conference and has failed to take advantage of a favorable schedule that, as recently as this weekend, saw them host two teams in the bottom third of the Big Ten and come away with only a win and a tie. In fact, the Terps have not played well against the teams in the bottom half of the conference. Michigan State (currently 12th) also played Maryland to a 0-0 tie in College Park. Nebraska's only conference win to date came in a 4-3 overtime contest with the Terps albeit that one was in Lincoln.
The Terps looked to be finding their stride after scoring six goals in three games heading into the Indiana match. However, Maryland relapsed into their early season pattern when they managed to get only two shots on goal in 110 minutes of play. Once again, the game in Columbus presents an opportunity but once again, the Terrapins need to raise their level of play particularly in the offensive half to exploit that opportunity.
Buckeyes on the pitch
In 2013, Ohio State finished 10-7-3 overall and 4-5-2 in conference play. Though they failed to make the Big Ten Tournament (only the top eight teams played), they did reach the NCAA Tournament where they lost their first round match 3-1 to Kentucky. In terms of scoring and defense, the 2013 Buckeyes were decidedly middle of the road. They averaged 1.65 goals per game and their two goalkeepers combined for a 1.10 goals against average.
The Buckeyes are currently floating just below the .500 mark with an overall record of 5-7-1. They are 2-4-1 in conference play. Three of their five wins have come on their home field and they have split their two home conference games to date.
Though they returned their top three scorers from the 2013 squad, that season's leading scorer, Nichelle Prince, opened the season with an injury and has returned to the lineup only in the Buckeyes' last four games. Ohio State is 1-2-1 in those four contests.
As a team, Ohio State scores slightly better than Maryland picking up 1.38 goals per game to the Terps 1.25 average. However, the Buckeyes are not as solid defensively as the Terrapins. They have been out shot and out scored by their opponents and with redshirt freshman Megan Geldernick in goal they are conceding 1.85 goals per game. It's worth nothing that nine of the 24 goals they've given up came in their losses to Penn State and Illinois.
Players to watch
Sammy Edwards, #19, freshman, forward. With 2013 leading scorer Nichelle Prince out to start the season, the Buckeyes needed someone to step in and fill the scoring void. Rather than an upperclassman, it has been Edwards who has come in as a freshman to lead Ohio State in goals with four and points with nine.
Nichelle Prince, #7, sophomore, forward. In addition to leading Ohio State in goals (13) and points (32) as a freshman, Prince received second team All Big Ten recognition in 2013. She missed the team's first nine games and returned to the lineup in the Buckeyes' 4-1 loss to Illinois. She has yet to break through for a goal and could be primed to score against the Terps.
Saturday's match will not be the first for the Terps and Buckeyes. Maryland and Ohio State have met once before on the pitch. That meeting came in Maryland head coach Jonathan Morgan's first season when the Terps dropped a 1-0 early season game in Columbus.
Although Ohio State is certainly no pushover and playing on the road is always a challenge, Saturday's game represents yet another opportunity for the Terps to move up in the Big Ten standings against a squad that should not present the same level of challenge as Maryland will face over the last portion of their schedule. The game takes on a bit of added importance with Minnesota's 3-1 win over Nebraska Thursday night. A win would intensify the logjam forming behind conference leaders Penn State and Michigan.
Following Saturday's game, Maryland will close out their home season with games against Illinois - who sit immediately above Maryland in the standings - and Northwestern another squad languishing at the bottom of the conference. The Terps' final three games are on the road and include Penn State the only undefeated team in conference play as well as another top tier team in Wisconsin. If Maryland is to make a push to finish in the top third of the conference, it needs to start with a win Saturday.