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Celeste Sloma (left) and Rayann Pruss (right) talk to reporters on Chessa Field, Nov. 8, 2023, in Athens, Ohio.

Soccer: Celeste Sloma plays significant part in Ohio's run to NCAA Tournament

Throughout the 2023 season, the Ohio Bobcats faced numerous ups and downs on the journey to winning the first Mid-American Conference (MAC) championship in school history. However, one of the most consistent positive factors for Ohio this season has been the performance of sophomore goalkeeper Celeste Sloma. 

For the 2023 season, no other Bobcat has played more minutes than Sloma, who has recorded 1,890 on the year. Sloma has been the centerpiece of a dominant Ohio defense that has managed to hold opponents to 0.90 goals per game.

Thus far, Sloma has recorded 87 saves, maintained an 82.1% save percentage, and has posted seven shutout victories for Ohio. Her statistics have been impressive, but her shutout victories were the most impressive factor as six of Ohio’s nine victories in 2023 were shutouts. Additionally, there have been only three matches all season in which Ohio allowed two or more goals in a match. 

Ohio has succeeded with dominant defensive play this season, and Sloma has captained that effort all season. As the season has winded down and the Ohio offense has found consistent success, it has helped out the defense and Sloma specifically, who was glad not to feel the pressure as much as earlier in the season.

“All three of the games in the MAC, we scored two goals. So it took a lot of pressure off my back,” Sloma said. “I felt like a bit earlier in the season, I would have to be that outlet to make those big saves, and it was definitely expected of me, but I think our defense played so solid the entire season, and just them having my back, it kind of allows me to play free.” 

During the MAC Championship match versus Kent State, Sloma made some incredible saves to keep Ohio in the match after giving up a goal in the third minute. Sloma kept Ohio only down by one before the team could rally in the second half and take the lead 2-1. 

According to Sloma, a mistake made in the Bowling Green match allowed her to improve in the championship match.

“In the BG (Bowling Green) game I got scored on,”  Sloma said. “I was a little bit upset with myself because I felt like I could have closed on that (shot) and cut off her angle a little bit more. So when I saw that I was in a one-on-one situation with her (Alisa Arthur) and she was their leading scorer, I knew she was going to shoot it. I knew she wasn’t going to pass. So I just waited for her to take that big touch.” 

Toward the end of the regular season, Ohio found itself on the outside looking in at the MAC playoff picture with only two matches remaining. Even though making the tournament was out of Ohio’s control, the team fell back on its well-constructed team chemistry to build momentum going into the postseason, which resulted in Ohio winning the MAC tournament as the lowest seed. 

According to Sloma, Ohio’s team chemistry is one of the things that differentiates it from its opponents.

“Yeah, I think this is one of the closer teams I’ve ever played on,” Sloma said. “I think that sets us apart from other teams where they might yell and bicker at each other on the field. But we might have one person be like, ‘Okay, let’s go pick it up, and you got the next one,’ but it’s never a bad attitude. I think that’s something that really sets our team apart.”

Now that Ohio has won the first MAC title in school history, the team will move on to the NCAA tournament. Ohio will travel to Michigan State and play in the first round of the tournament for the first time in Ohio Soccer history. After winning their last five matches and claiming the MAC title, the Bobcats have plenty of momentum going into a matchup against the team that finished in a tie for first in the Big Ten in the regular season.

Sloma has had a fantastic year and is a primary factor in Ohio being able to go on this underdog run this postseason. The Ohio soccer program has a great goalkeeper with championship success to lead the program into the coming years.

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