Sarina Dirrig did not start the 2019 season with the statistical success she had in 2018.
Coming off a season where she was one of the top goal-scorers for the Bobcats and hoped to have her production increase, the first few matches of 2019 seemed disappointing.
Through the first eight matches, the junior forward only recorded one goal and no assists.
Dirrig’s slow start led to a decreased role for her, as she lost her starting spot before the start of MAC play.
Frustration was there for Dirrig — her competitive drive pushes her to be the best she can be — and losing the starting spot hurt. But she embraced her bench role because it was for the good of the Bobcats.
“Even if the role changes halfway through the season, I’m a team-first player,” Dirrig said.
Ohio started MAC play with Dirrig coming off the bench, and they began well enough, securing a 2-1 victory over Northern Illinois on Sept. 27.
After the first match against the Salukis, however, the Bobcats began to struggle. In its next five matches, Ohio went 1-3-1 and saw its standing in the MAC drop from third to seventh at the end of the five-match stretch.
Dirrig was still coming off the bench during this time, and she was focused on proving herself worthy of getting the starting spot back while playing within the scheme of the Bobcats.
That meant going the extra mile whenever possible. She stayed after practice almost every day to get more work on skills like finishing at the net, increasing her dribbling ability and playing touches. She never let her decreased role affect her morale.
“Me being negative about that is going to hurt more people than help more people,” Dirrig said. “I just stayed positive and kept working hard.”
Coach Aaron Rodgers noticed Dirrig’s work and positive attitude in practices, and he saw that Ohio was struggling and needed something to change things up and hopefully get the Bobcats energized.
So, on the Oct. 18 match against Central Michigan, Rodgers put Dirrig back into the starting lineup.
Dirrig got the opportunity she was waiting for, and she took full advantage of it.
In the 46th minute against the Chippewas, Alivia Milesky sent a sliding cross in Dirrig’s direction. The junior forward made a slide of her own toward the ball and pushed into the left corner of the net to give Ohio a 2-1 lead. It eventually turned into a 2-1 victory for the Bobcats.
That win ended up being a turning point in the season, as Ohio went on to win its next two matches and had a three-match winning streak late in the season as it fought for a higher seed in the MAC.
Dirrig scored a goal in two of those three matches. She ended up matching her goal total from last season, recording four goals in 2019. She felt things beginning to come together for both her and the Bobcats toward the end of the season.
Ohio only rose up to the sixth seed in the MAC tournament, but an upset of third-seeded Western Michigan on Sunday means the Bobcats are still fighting for their ultimate goal of a conference championship.
Dirrig knows that if she, and Ohio, continues to play with the same energy she had to end the regular season and in the Western Michigan match, the MAC Championship is not out of reach.
“We’re really playing our best soccer at the right time,” Dirrig said. “Everything’s just really clicking right now.”