Ohio mirrored the dreary weather Sunday, losing 2-1 to Michigan State at Pruitt Field. There is credit due to Michigan State, as its ability to shut down passing lanes, and the offense in general, led to Ohio’s loss.
Despite slowing down, Ohio’s offense was alive at the start of the match. In the first quarter, Meela Kopp scored the opening goal off a skilled play drawn up for the penalty corner. It was her third goal of the season and put Ohio up 1-0. That shot was one of Ohio’s only two in the first quarter. Michigan State only had two shots in the first quarter as well.
The second quarter was the same, as both teams continued to struggle offensively. Ohio and Michigan State had trouble penetrating the attacking circles of the opposition, a tactic that was also missing for Ohio in its last match.
The Spartans took two more shots in the 24th and 26th minutes of the match, but both attempts were whisked away by Nele Graner in net. Graner had few opportunities in net Sunday, although some of that is due to the fact that she was removed from the match at halftime.
“We just wanted to rotate,” Ohio coach Ali Johnstone said. “Macy (Lotze) has been playing really well in practice and we wanted to give her more time on the pitch.”
With Lotze in net, the Bobcats had a huge test ahead of them in the third. Entering the match, the Spartans were outscoring their opposition 16-2 in the third quarter. Nursing a one goal lead, the Bobcats made a pair of efforts to enlarge their advantage. A penalty corner forced by Noa Desmaretz did not yield a score. A similar result came off a shot by Mijntje Ligtenberg that went high shortly thereafter.
For the first time all match, the Spartans appeared to have a chance to tie the score. However, a save by Lotze and a defensive save by Anouk Plaehn kept the score in favor of the Bobcats.
Those efforts were just a precursor for the offensive explosion forthcoming from the Spartans. Quickly thereafter, the Spartans found the back of the net. Merel Hanssen scored the goal unassisted by going to the baseline and finding space around Lotze.
Even though the match was tied, Michigan State was not satisfied. This was made clear when it pushed the action by forcing a penalty corner. The initial corner did not result in a goal, however, it led to another opportunity.
The second penalty corner saw madness ensue. Michigan State was given a goal, but Ohio contended that dangerous play occurred. However, after a lengthy replay review later, the officials confirmed the goal by Maddie Lawlor.
Heading into the fourth, the score was 2-1 in favor of the Spartans. The Bobcats had yet to get a lot done offensively during the second half, making a comeback attempt difficult to envision.
During the fourth quarter, the Bobcats found a way to get the ball close to the net but could not convert on a few golden opportunities. One of which was Ligtenberg getting the ball right in front of the crease, only to have the shot go wide.
With a few minutes remaining, the Bobcats went into desperation mode. They nearly got the equalizer to go when a hail mary pass found Ligtenberg in front of the net. The shot was blocked and time expired.
The Bobcats loss drops them to 5-5 on the season and extends their losing streak to three matches. Over the course of the weekend, the Bobcats dropped two matches, both of which were one goal affairs. The inability to close out one-goal matches has cost the Bobcats and could continue to hurt them as the season moves forward.
Realistically, the loss for Ohio does little to impact its season on paper. The team still likely needs to win three of the remaining four Mid-American Conference matches for a chance at the conference tournament. This match only served as a measuring stick for Ohio, who demonstrated it can play with anyone. One way or another, Ohio must figure out a way to close matches should they have higher aspirations this season.