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

Soccer: Ohio gained invaluable experience from its run to NCAA tournament

In Ohio’s 3-0 loss to Michigan State on Friday, the team gave substantial playing time to eight freshmen and sophomores. From the start of the game, Ohio had issues dealing with Michigan State’s pressure, which ultimately led to the team giving up multiple early goals. Despite this, the Bobcats’ younger players still made plays showing how and why the team ended up in the NCAA tournament in the first place, all while showing signs of positivity for future Bobcat teams. 

According to Head Coach Aaron Rodgers, Ohio now knows what it means to take on a top contender playing at the highest level.

“I mean, there’s nothing better than experience at this level,” Rodgers said. “We’ve been here now, we know what it takes and we know what it’s like to play against a top-seeded team like Michigan State at the level that they can play.”

In the first half, sophomore Scout Murray contributed to offensive momentum picked up by the Bobcats and even drew contact in the Spartan penalty box after the Bobcats allowed their second goal.

“Even in the first half, we created a couple of chances and I think we were a little unlucky not to get awarded a penalty, but you know that’s soccer,” Rodgers said. “Sometimes you get some, sometimes you don’t.”

Murray was not the only player who showed signs of life for Ohio. Celeste Sloma had 10 saves, including several spectacular ones to keep Ohio’s hopes alive in the first and second halves. Sloma was previously described by Rodgers as the MAC’s best goalkeeper, and it showed not only in Ohio’s loss to Michigan State, but also throughout its run in the MAC tournament. 

Sophomores like Maia Soulis and Eve Berish contributed to Ohio’s improved second-half effort, while underclassmen forwards Maia Kaufman and Jaimason Brooker also got playing time. According to Rodgers, the experience gained by Ohio’s youngest stars on the sport’s biggest stage is something that will benefit the program for years to come.

“A lot of underclassmen played significant minutes tonight,” Rodgers said. “That was just a wonderful learning moment for them, a growth moment for them. When they look back and they kind of reflect on these last few weeks, they can only grow and gain a lot of confidence.”


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