Rutgers continues to seek first win against Ohio State
The Rutgers men’s soccer team had the chance to get a result against the No. 4 team in the nation Tuesday night.
Rutgers has only faced teams ranked nationally in the top 15 until now with one exception.
But a similar struggling team awaits the Knights on Sunday.
The battered Buckeyes of Ohio State will host Rutgers in a match that was much more anticipated last year.
Like the Knights, the Buckeyes (1-5, 1-1) haven't been able to string together wins.
Both teams ended the 2016 season hosting ranked teams.
Ohio State opened up its season hosting the Bert and Iris Wolstein Classic, losing both games in overtime. No. 23 Virginia Tech defeated the Buckeyes in double-overtime while it took No. 13 UC Santa Barbara one overtime.
Another similarity between the two teams is the amount of goals they have struggled to score. Ohio State scored only four goals through their first six games, while Rutgers only has one.
But don’t let the numbers and record fool you when looking at the Buckeyes' stat sheet.
Just a season ago, Ohio State was one of the most feared teams in college soccer.
Although Ohio State lost to the Knights in Piscataway for its regular season matchup, the Buckeyes prevailed where it mattered most — the semifinal round of the Big Ten Tournament, where they won 4-0.
Ohio State then reached the NCAA Tournament getting to the third round, before getting eliminated by eventual National Champion Stanford, 3-1.
Even though the Buckeyes are starting off a comparable 2016 campaign with Rutgers, head coach Dan Donigan’s team will not throw in the towel and are prepared for a tough road opponent.
“They know none of us are giving up,” Donigan said of his squad. “We’re coming out here, we’re gonna prepare this week for Ohio State, and it's gonna be another incredibly tough test and challenge on the road against a very good team, and we're looking forward to it”.
After fighting tooth and nail with No. 4 Maryland in the Knights' closest game of the season, Rutgers has gained some confidence under its belt and remembered it can play with the best teams in the country.
The Knights lost to No. 8 Denver by a slim 1-0 score and to No. 14 Creighton 2-0, but Rutgers battled toe-to-toe with powerhouse No. 4 Maryland.
Junior forward Dante Perez, who lifted the Knights up with his equalizer on Tuesday, believes the promise from No. 4 Maryland will carry into Sunday.
“I think the effort we put in and the drive we had to win (will) show we can play at this level despite our record," Perez said.
Donigan will stay with the current line-up that has reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Jason Wright playing left midfield instead of his normal striker position.
His teammates have not been able to adapt fully to their new positions, after a series of injuries shook up this year's roster, causing Wright to rely on the team's fill-ins, who have not been able to create the same opportunities as last year's squad.
Donigan dropped him to midfield to start the attack early and try and make something happen.
“I think Jason likes it,” Donigan said. “He’s been very responsive to it. I think it worked to a degree. So really for me right now there’s no need to try and fix anything that’s not really broke. We competed head and toe with Maryland. Although the shots may tell you a little bit differently ... it’s a number and ... it doesn’t always necessarily equate to them dominating the game.”
Another huge piece for Rutgers may even be its most vital.
Last year's Second Team All Big Ten goalkeeper, David Greczek, displayed a work of art in the game versus No. 4 Maryland.
Greczek made 10 saves on the game, two shy of his career high in 2013 against USF.
And although the game Sunday against Ohio State is masked by two recently successful programs struggling mightily, it is still a huge for chance for the Knights to get in the win column and start their road back to success.
And Greczek said he believes after Thursday’s practice, all of his teammates are confident for Ohio State.
“We came into practice today, the guys are happy and energetic," Greczek said. "I think it’s a big confidence booster for us that were gonna bring into Ohio State.”
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