BOWLING GREEN — Whenever the Bobcats struggled to stay consistent throughout the season, they could always rely on the defense to supply some stability.
The defense, led by second team All-MAC defender Victoria Breeden, pitched five shutouts and recorded 13 matches in 2019, where they held Ohio’s opponents to one goal or fewer.
When the offense went through a rough patch in the middle of the season, it was the work of the back line that kept Ohio in matches and gave them chances to win.
On Friday, the Bobcats only gave up 11 shots, but eight of them were on goal. Five of them found the back of the net.
In Ohio’s 5-2 loss to Eastern Michigan in the Mid-American Conference semifinals, the defense struggled in the least opportune time for the Bobcats. The defense had lapses early in the match, and the Bobcats were in a 4-1 hole at halftime.
By the time the second half started, Ohio’s season was essentially over.
Coach Aaron Rodgers felt the defense played as though it were unprepared, and he accepts responsibility for the struggles.
“It seemed like we were overwhelmed from the beginning, and we kind of got caught off-guard,” Rodgers said. “I’ll take the blame for that.”
Those defensive struggles created tough situations for goalie Sydney Malham that were unwinnable.
Rodgers saw that, and he was proud of the way his goalie fought even as she was left on her own for some key plays.
“Sometimes as a goalkeeper, there’s nothing you can do,” Rodgers said. “(Malham) made a couple of really good saves, but we got stuck in some situations where Eastern Michigan got some pretty clean looks. She did her best, but there wasn’t anything she could do.”
When looking at Eastern Michigan’s offensive attack on the Bobcat defense, it was clear that Ohio could not contain redshirt senior Kristin Hullibarger. The Eagle forward took four shots in the match, and all four found the back of the net.
The offensive explosion from the Eagles is something the Bobcats did not see in their first match on the season. On Oct. 20, Eastern Michigan was one of Ohio’s five shutouts on the season, as the Bobcats won in a 1-0 affair.
In the MAC semifinals, the Eagles changed their offensive tactics, and the Bobcats were not prepared for the aggression that attacked the back line.
That lack of preparation cost Ohio its season.