A goal that surprised even Ohio coach Aaron Rodgers set the tone for his team’s compelling 3–1 victory over Western Michigan on Thursday at Chessa Field.
Ohio (8–3–1, 4–0–1 Mid-American Conference) remains undefeated in MAC play. The Bobcats have won or tied each of their last five matches.
Ohio got down to business early as Abby Townsend netted a shot from the middle of the pitch to send her team up 1–0 in the fourth minute. Townsend was assisted by Isabella Ginocchi. Ohio remained aggressive with four shots over the next 10 minutes of the match.
Western Michigan (3–9, 1–4 MAC) retaliated in the 33rd minute. Bailey Korhorn cashed in a one-on-one opportunity against goalkeeper Sam Wexell and snuck a goal into the bottom right of the net to tie up the match.
Just nine minutes later, a series of crisp passes and a convincing fake by Sarina Dirrig set up Julianna Farina’s first goal as a Bobcat. Farina kicked a laser into the top right of the goal just past the outstretched arms of Western Michigan goalkeeper Maggie Rogers. The goal held Ohio up 2–1 at halftime.
“I was wondering why Sarina, who got the assist, didn’t shoot it herself,” Rodgers said. “She laid it off and I didn’t see ‘Jules’ running through there, and what an amazing finish.”
In a relatively quiet second half, effective passing created an open goal for the Bobcats to build up a 3–1 lead. Shae Robertson knocked in her fourth goal of the season and was assisted by Dirrig. Western Michigan attempted to claw back into the match, but the score was kept at 3–1 as Ohio relentlessly attacked the goal as time dwindled away.
On Ohio’s defensive end, Paige Knorr’s presence at midfield was felt. Knorr was often in the right place at the right time, breaking up passes and preventing fast breaks. Wexell had six saves coming off her MAC Defensive Player of the Week award.
Ohio matched its season-high of three goals in a match.
“I thought we were brilliant,” Rodgers said. “We created so many good chances. We maybe could’ve been a little more efficient with the quality chances that we created. But to score three goals in a conference game against a good Western Michigan team, who I know is fighting really hard right now, I’m very pleased with that for sure.”
Dirrig has been on a tear the last two matches, notching two assists and two shots Thursday and the lone goal to propel the Bobcats above Toledo on Sunday.
“I think I’m just in a bit of a different role this year being a fifth year, and there’s a lot of talented players younger than me, so I’ve just been trying to adopt that role and do whatever I can when I get minutes on the field,” Dirrig said. “I have to earn it every time I get on there, you know. That's a big motivation, so it worked out well for me this week, and I’ve been working really hard, so I’m just glad I was able to show it.”