The most successful era in Ohio State soccer began 18 years ago when head coach John Bluem took over the reins of a program that had finished above .500 just twice in the previous decade. In his first season, Bluem took that team to an 11-7-2 record and its first appearance in a Big Ten title game, accomplishments that would serve as merely a preview of what was to come.
Since then, the list has continued to be nothing short of impressive: four Big Ten titles, 15 Major League Soccer draft picks and all nine of Ohio State's appearances in the NCAA tournament, including five in the last seven years and the 2007 College Cup.
Now in his 19th season with the Buckeyes in 2015, the four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year is coming off a 9-8-5 season in 2014 that ended with a No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and a second round appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Bluem was named Big Ten Coach of the Year for the fourth time, while four other Buckeyes earned All-Big Ten honors. Goalkeeper Alex Ivanov won the prestigious Senior CLASS Award, becoming the third Buckeye in school history to recive the honor.
A 2002 entrant into the Hartwick College Hall of Fame, Bluem is Ohio State's all-time wins leader with a 180-132-52 (.573) record in Columbus. His career record, which includes six seasons at Fresno State, stands at 266-159-64 for a .618 winning percentage and a Top 35 position among active NCAA coaches in both number of victories and percentage.
In 24 seasons as a collegiate head coach, Bluem's teams have won at least 10 games 18 times - 12 at Ohio State - and he has taken his teams to the NCAA tournament in 13 seasons. In addition to his 2007 College Cup squad, his 1996 Fresno State team advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals and his 2004 OSU squad went to the Round of 16. Bluem also has guided Buckeye teams to the postseason in 2000, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2014.
Under Bluem, Ohio State won outright Big Ten championships in 2000, 2007, 2009 and won a share of the league regular-season title in 2004, while taking the tournament crown in 2007 and 2009. In seven of the last nine years, the Buckeyes have finished either first or second in the league's regular-season race in a conference that is annually in the Top 3 of the RPI league index. For this, he has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year three times (1999, 2004, 2009 and 2010), the most of any active conference coach, bringing his career total conference coach of the year honors to seven.
SEASON-BY-SEASON Led by a strong senior class, the Buckeyes returned to the postseason for the first time in four years. The 2014 squad finished 9-8-5, including a strong 5-3 mark in Big Ten play to earn the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State advanced past in-state rival Akron following an epic 15th-round penalty shootout in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. Liam Doyle was named a first team All-Big Ten selection, while Yianni Sarris earned second team honors.
The 2012 Buckeyes completed a disappointing season with a 6-10-3 record, finishing seventh in the Big Ten. Bluem and Ohio State extended their streak to three years of having a player selected in the MLS draft when Chris Hegngi was taken by Portland in the supplemental draft.
The Buckeyes wrapped up the 2011 campaign 10-7-2 overall record and a 4-2-0 mark in the Big Ten, tying for second. It is the seventh time in eight years they have finished among the Top 2 teams at the end of the regular season and the 12th in which a Bluem-led team has earned double-digit victories.
Bluem's 2010 squad accomplished a feat no previous OSU team had done, earning a fourth-consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament assuring seniors Matt Gold, Sam Scales and Konrad Warzycha the honor of being the first four-year class to do so. The Buckeyes ended the campaign with an 11-6-3 mark and a 4-2-0 record in the Big Ten, earning a No. 16 seed in the postseason where they advanced to the third round before falling to eventual national runner-up and top-seeded Louisville.
Though the campaign ended abruptly in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the 2009 season remains one of the best in Buckeye history. It was the first time an OSU team captured both the regular-season and tournament championships in the Big Ten, defeating the likes of Indiana twice along the way, to set up a No. 4 seed for the NCAA Tournament. At 12-5-4, Bluem posted his 10th season with at least 10 wins in Columbus and, with a 5-0-3 mark to open the season, had the longest undefeated start in 57 years of Ohio State soccer.
The 2008 season may have felt like a letdown after the historical 2007 campaign, but with a final record 9-9-3, Bluem marked his 10th OSU squad to finish at or above .500 in the previous 12 years. The Buckeyes also made their third appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last four years, advancing to the second round before falling to Akron in double overtime.
In 2007, Ohio State went 17-4-5 overall, shut out Indiana twice, won its second Big Ten championship and won three NCAA tournament games at home to advance to the College Cup, where a 1-0 win over Massachusetts extended the Buckeyes' unbeaten streak to 15 games. A 2-1 loss to No. 1 Wake Forest in the national title game ended the string, but Bluem had taken Ohio State to the national stage like never before.
Following the record-breaking season, junior Roger Espinoza signed with Generation adidas and was selected in the first round and senior Eric Brunner went in the second round. Xavier Balc was later selected in the supplemental draft.
Bluem's 2006 Ohio State squad finished with a final RPI of No. 28 and advanced to the Big Ten championship game, but the Buckeyes were surprisingly not selected for the NCAA tournament. As usual, Bluem had Ohio State playing its best soccer at the end of the season, as the Buckeyes went 8-2-1 in their last 11 games on their way to the league title game at home in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
In 2005, the Buckeyes were 11-8-2 overall and finished second in the Big Ten regular-season standings, ahead of two-time defending national champion Indiana. Ohio State was sent to No. 18 Santa Clara for the first round of the NCAA tournament, where the Buckeyes' season ended with a hard-fought 1-0 loss. During the season, OSU was ranked as high as No. 11 in the nation and No. 3 in the region.
The 2004 season was one of Ohio State's best in the 56 years of the program. The Buckeyes won a share of the Big Ten regular-season title with a 5-1-0 record and went three rounds deep in the NCAA tournament, hosting and beating No. 11 Memphis in the first round and winning at No. 9 Notre Dame in the second round. In the MLS supplemental draft, Big Ten Player of the Year Justin Cook was selected by Chicago and teammate Sammy Tamporello was picked by Dallas.
In 2003 the Buckeyes ranked third in the Big Ten with 1.16 goals-allowed average. Though Ohio State posted a 4-12-4 record that season, the Buckeyes' strength of schedule was ranked as the eighth-toughest in the nation at the end of the season.
In 2002, Bluem's Buckeyes narrowly missed what would have been their third-consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. Ohio State went 11-7-1 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten. The season was highlighted by a six-game winning streak, while six of OSU's seven losses were decided by just one goal.
In addition, seniors Jake Traeger and Andy Rosenband were selected in the 2003 MLS Draft. Rosenband was chosen as the 52nd overall pick in the sixth round by Dallas. Traeger also was selected in the sixth round by the Columbus Crew at No. 58. They were the first-ever Buckeyes selected in the MLS Draft.
The 2002 season also was highlighted by a prestigious personal achievement for Bluem, who was inducted into the Hartwick College Hall of Fame. A starting stopper for Hartwick from 1972-74, Bluem helped the Hawks compile a 30-9-7 overall record and make three trips to the NCAA tournament, including a third-place finish in 1974.
In 2001, the Buckeyes earned their second-consecutive bid to the NCAA tournament with their first-ever at-large berth as OSU finished with a 10-7-2 overall record. That season Bluem also led his team to its then-highest ranking in program history, a No. 10 ranking in the NSCAA poll.
The 2000 campaign was one of many firsts for OSU soccer--its first Top 25 national ranking, first Big Ten championship and first trip to the NCAA tournament. Ohio State was ranked as high as No. 12 in the NSCAA Top 25 poll and No. 1 in the NSCAA Great Lakes region poll, landing a spot among the Top 25 for an impressive seven consecutive weeks and finished the year at No. 18. The Buckeyes finished 12-5-4 overall and earned Ohio Team of the Year accolades.
Ohio State captured its first Big Ten championship Nov. 11, 2000, in front of the home crowd at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, defeating Penn State, 3-2, in overtime. In the Big Ten semifinal round, the squad defeated two-time defending national champion and ninth-ranked Indiana, 1-0, for the first time in 45 years. The Buckeyes earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament for their first NCAA appearance and Bluem's fifth. Ohio State fell to Creighton, 1-0, in the first-round match, also held at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.
In 1999, Bluem guided the Buckeyes to an 11-8-0 record and a second-place regular season tie with Penn State in the Big Ten at 3-2. The winning ways of 1999 erased an 8-9-3 finish in 1998, when Ohio State finished third in the regular-season standings. Senior goalkeeper Jon Lowery, who had been the Buckeyes' first first-team All-Big Ten selection, repeated the honor along with three of his teammates.
In 1997, Bluem became the ninth head soccer coach at Ohio State and wasted no time in recharging the Scarlet and Gray program. He guided one of the youngest teams in school history to an 11-7-2 (3-1-1 in Big Ten) record and the Buckeyes made it to the championship game of the Big Ten tournament for the first time, coming away with a runner-up finish.
PRIOR TO OHIO STATE At Fresno State, Bluem averaged 14 wins per season and qualified for NCAA postseason play in four of his six years as mentor. His 1996 squad posted a 17-5-1 record, won the first Western Athletic Conference title and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament, ending the season with a No. 7 national ranking.
After his collegiate career as a fullback at traditional soccer power Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y., Bluem was drafted by Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League, a team that went 16-6 and won the Soccer Bowl his first year. He played for two seasons with Tampa Bay.
Bluem earned his master of arts in physical education from the University of Akron in 1984. He received his bachelor of science in secondary education from Ohio State in 1980 after completing a bachelor of arts degree in history from Hartwick College in 1975.
OFF THE FIELD The 60-year-old Syracuse, N.Y., native lives in Columbus with his wife, Bethany, and has a son, William, a graduate of Ohio State, and daughter, Amy, a senior at Ohio University.