COLUMBUS, Ohio - After a day of meetings, a team-building afternoon on the ropes course at Summit Vision and moving into the team preseason hotel, the Ohio State men's soccer team began its 2017 preseason with a fitness test and first team training session Wednesday at Ohio Stadium and the upper practice fields across the street from Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The Buckeyes held their team photo day (photos to come) and Scarlet & Gray scrimmage Thursday on campus.
The Buckeyes, led by 21st-year head coach John Bluem, return 11 letterwinners from a year ago and welcome 18 newcomers, including 15 freshmen this fall. The Scarlet and Gray also welcome three upperclassmen transfers.
"This is the biggest group of newcomers I've had in my coaching career," Bluem said. "I don't think I've had a situation where the number of newcomers outnumber the group of returning players. Part of that was because we wanted to build the roster back up again. We felt like last year the roster was too small and that hurt us with training sessions and depth at certain positions."
The 2017 incoming class ranked seventh in the country by College Soccer News. The Buckeyes were one of four schools in the nation to have three straight Top 10 classes along with North Carolina, Wake Forest and Virginia. The group hails from three different countries, while five members are natives of Ohio. The incoming Buckeyes feature seven defenders, five forwards, four midfielders and two goalkeepers.
"Ian Gordona did a fantastic job of building this class," Bluem said. "He put a lot of worked into and we are very excited about the players coming in. The three transfers are three solid division I players with experience that can help right away. In that freshman group, there will be a lot of players that will be called on."
The Buckeyes lost nine letterwinners, including seven starters from an injury-plagued team that finished 5-13-1 overall and 3-4-1 in conference play in 2016. However, the Buckeyes have high hopes to get back on top of the Big Ten standings with the guidance of some key returning guys, including second team All-Big Ten selections Nate Kohl and Abdi Mohamed as well as Parker Siegfried, who was named an All-Freshmen selection last season. Kohl, a senior forward, led the team in points with 14 points (6g, 2a), while Mohamed, a junior midfielder, leads all active Buckeyes with 20 career points. Siegfried, a redshirt sophomore goalkeeper, made 66 saves and collected three shutouts in 19 starts. Senior defenders Hunter Robertson and Niall Logue also return in the OSU backfield.
Ohio State will play 11 regular season matches at Bert L. & Iris S. Wolstein Field at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The Buckeyes will play three exhibition games, including two at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The Scarlet and Gray host IUPUI at 1 p.m. Sunday and Butler at 6 p.m. Aug. 16. The team wraps up its preseason with a road scrimmage at Creighton at 8:30 p.m. Aug. 20. Ohio State opens the 2017 season by hosting the 12th-annual Bert & Iris Wolstein Classic Aug. 25-27 in Columbus. The Buckeyes face Pitt Aug. 25 and conclude the first weekend of play against FIU Aug. 27. Admission to all Ohio State men's soccer home games are free.