The members of OSUFC and OSUWSC
2016 National Finalists
OSUFC Falls 3-2 in National Title Game
The 2016 NIRSA Soccer season ended on Saturday, November 19th with The Ohio State University taking on the University of Virginia in the National Championship in Foley, Alabama. After a 15 hour bus ride the team had arrived in Alabama along with the women of the Ohio State Women’s Soccer Club who were also competing in the Championship Division. Both teams were looking to win their second National Championship after both squads won the title in 2014.
OSUFC entered the NIRSA National Championship Series having earned one of eight #1 seeds after beating the University of Michigan in overtime 2-1 in the Regional Championship back in October. Joining Ohio State in Group G of the Men’s Championship Division were Utah State University and North Texas University. The first game of group play was against USU. The Utah State Big Blue went up 1-0 going into halftime after a late goal gave them the lead. A quick goal by Niko Popovich leveled the game at 1 after a fast start for OSUFC. Although the Buckeyes dominated the rest of the half, the game remained tied until Mike McKune put the go ahead goal in with seven minutes left. McKune’s goal ended up being the decider and OSUFC walked away with the first win of the tournament. The next game was under the lights at the Foley Sports Tourism Complex against North Texas University. Another dominating performance led to a 4-1 win for the Buckeyes over the Eagles. Thomas Gullo and Josh McDaniel scored one goal each and in his first showing for the club since being sidelined with a medical problem early in the season, Shin Nagahama scored two goals. With the two wins OSUFC came out on top of Group G and advanced to the Sweet 16 to play Colorado State. Five different players scored after two games.
Colorado State had advanced in second place out of their group with one win and one loss. CSU proved to give OSU a physical test as both teams knew it was officially “win or go home” time. The first half ended 1-0 with Niko Popovich’s second goal of the tournament. Early in the second half Thomas Gullo also got his second of the tournament with a nice chip right over the keeper into the upper 90. As the game came to a close Colorado State poked one away with 5 minutes remaining. Although the game ended in a 2-1 victory for the Buckeyes, it didn’t end without Colorado State receiving three yellow cards, a red card after the final whistle, and the trash can on their bench getting blasted with a kick by a distraught CSU player. Additionally, a rough collision in the box left midfielder Brock Hersch with a separated shoulder. He would continue to play the rest of the tournament despite the injury and prove to be a vital part to the team’s success. OSUFC moved on to face Texas A&M in the Elite Eight.
As the sun set on the second day, 8 teams remained in the hunt for the National Title. Region 3 had three teams represented in the Elite Eight (OSU, UC, UW-Madison), which was the most of any Region. Earlier in the day the Texas A&M Aggies defeated the defending National Champions North Carolina by a 2-1 score to move on to the match up with Ohio State. The Aggies won a National Championship of their own in 2004, and where looking to get back to the top spot. What looked to be a potential battle on paper turned out to be a blow out. OSUFC easily walked past Texas A&M winning 3-0 posting the first shutout since beating Indiana University 2-0 in the semifinals of Regionals. Mike McKune struck again in the first half recording his 2nd goal of the tournament to take the 1-0 lead into halftime. Shortly after the second half began, Niko Popovich took advantage of a huge mistake from the A&M keeper to double the lead. The last goal of the game came from Brock Hersch as he slotted it just past the keeper. With the dominating performance, Ohio State moved on to the Final Four for a rematch of the 2014 National Championship against San Diego State University, where Ohio State came out on top 1-0 in overtime. After the game the team went as a group to support the Ohio State Women’s Club team as they battled against Penn State for a spot in the Final Four as well. OSUWSC had dominated the competition so far outscoring their first three opponents 5-0. In an exciting game that finished 1-1 after both regulation and overtime, the women of OSUWSC advanced to the Final Four after winning the game in PKs. Freshman goalkeeper Marissa Wintrow saved two out of the four PK attempts by PSU to advance her team on to face North Carolina in the next round. Ohio State was the only school to have both men’s and women’s teams advance as to the Final Four.
On the final day of competition, OSUFC was joined in the Final Four by SDSU, University of Virginia, and fellow MASC-East Division rival the University of Cincinnati. The MASC-East made up half of the Final Four, proving that OSUFC competes in one of the most talented and challenging regular season leagues in the nation. With the wind at its highest rate of the week, OSUFC was attacking into the wind during the first half. SDSU took full advantage of the wind at their back and applied nonstop pressure. The Buckeye defense stepped up and only allowed 2 chances on goal the whole half. Halftime came with the score still level at 0. The team came out blazing in the second half and almost immediately created a couple chances on goal. Finally, Josh McDaniel broke through and scored to give OSU the 1-0 lead. With about 12 minutes left San Diego State slotted a ball across the box and a back post runner placed it side netting bringing the game to a 1-1 tie. OSUFC had one last chance to end the game in regulation, but the game ended tied. Halfway through the overtime period, Shin Nagahama took the ball down the side of the field, cut into the box and flicked the ball into the area. Junior midfielder Nevin Anandika scored his first goal of the season, and arguably the most important of the season, for the sudden death victory. The Ohio State bench cleared and the team swarmed Nevin down in the corner with an eruption of shouts and cheers from the fans. Now with the Championship in sight, the Buckeyes switched their attention to the University of Virginia.
UVA got to the Championship game by defeating Cincinnati 1-0. In a quick turn around, the Championship game was set to kick off less than 2 hours after the final whistle of the semi finals. Similarly to the game against SDSU, Ohio State had the wind in their face the first half. The pace and physicality of the Virginia players was a great match up for the Buckeyes. The Cavaliers struck first taking the 1-0 lead off of a fast break situation. Less than a minute later Niko Popovich scored his team-leading fourth goal of the tournament. With the wind at their backs, the speedy Virginia forwards pressed hard on the Ohio State defense. By half, UVA had placed two more in the back of the net to take a two goal lead into halftime. A tired and injured OSUFC took the field for the second half. With exactly 30 minutes to play in the game, Mike McKune scored to bring the Bucks to within one sitting at 3-2. A series of offensive attacks were thwarted by the UVA defense, most notably a save with 17 minutes left that the Virginia goalkeeper tipped just barely over the cross bar. A few Ohio State shots hit the post and bounced off the cross bar, but none found the back of the net and the game ended with a 3-2 loss for OSUFC.
Although the team lost in the final game, OSUFC accomplished a lot during the season. Finishing with a 16-3-1 record and outscoring our opponents 55 to 19 while racking up 7 shutouts. Club President Mike McKune was the team’s leading scorer on the season, scoring 13 goals. 14 different players scored on the season. 5 of the team’s 16 wins were exciting come from behind victories that nobody could forget. The Buckeyes were Regional Champions for the 7th time in the last 10 years, and made it back to the National Championship game for the 2nd time in the last 3 years. The 2016 NIRSA All-Tournament team featured 4 Buckeyes including Mike McKune, Niko Popovich, Brock Hersch, and Commodore Williams. Out of the hundreds of club teams that competed this season, and the thousands of students who competed during the NIRSA season all across the country, the 25 men of OSUFC were one of 2 team standing on the final day of competition.
OSUFC would also like to congratulate the Ohio State Women’s Club Soccer team on their performance at the NIRSA National Championships. They beat both the University of Florida and Texas A&M by a 2-0 score line to win their group. Moving on to play the University of Texas in the Sweet 16, the Buckeyes won yet again. Over the course of the tournament, OSUFC and OSUWSC played against 4 teams from Texas beating all 4 and outscoring them by a 10-1 margin. As mentioned above, OSUWSC beat fellow Big Ten opponents Penn State in PKs. In their Final 4 match up OSU played UNC-Chapel Hill and lost a close match 2-1. Maria Riley and Veronia Zaciek were All-Tournament Team selections representing the Buckeyes.