Nov. 20, 2002
Columbus, Ohio - Since being named as the head coach of Ohio State's women's soccer program, Lori Walker has made it a point to compete against the elite teams in the country. Each year, Walker has added more and more top flight programs to the season schedule and has reaped the benefits in each of the last two years as her team has made late season runs to challenge the top squads in the Big Ten conference and the nation. The 2002 season was no exception as the Buckeyes kicked off the campaign versus three ranked programs in California, St. Mary's (Calif.) and Marquette. Although the Buckeyes found themselves on the losing end of the draw in those first three contests, Walker was preparing her team for a heightened level of play toward the latter part of the conference regular season and tournament play.
OSU bounced back from the 0-3 start to claim wins in three of its next four matches, including a season-best 5-1 win over Georgetown on Sept. 8 and a tie the next week with then-No. 24 Purdue.
From that point on, however, the OSU season took a rough turn as the Buckeyes dropped four straight contests to Indiana, at Michigan and Michigan State and to Iowa in a game where Ohio State out shot the Hawkeyes by a 29-10 margin.
Following the loss to Iowa, Walker inserted sophomore goalkeeper Emily Haynam into the lineup, which helped the team respond to its grueling regular season slate and lift the Buckeyes to triumphs in six of their last eight contests, including wins at both Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The Buckeyes carried that momentum into the Big Ten tournament as they knocked off No. 24-ranked and second-seeded Michigan in the first round in an overtime penalty kick thriller. OSU and UM played to a 1-1 tie at the end of regulation and two periods of overtime, but claimed victory by a 3-2 count via shoot out behind the play of Haynam and the match-winning strike by senior co-captain and All-Big Ten honoree Jen Miller. OSU topped 19th-ranked and third-seeded Purdue in the semifinals in yet another exciting shoot out heart-stopper claiming a penalty kick win this time by a 5-4 advantage. Sophomore defender Erica Nollen buried the game-winner in the seventh round of the shoot out.
The Buckeyes would not require the drama of penalty kicks to capture their first-ever Big Ten title in the finals over Wisconsin. Ohio State, in a dominating performance, out shot the Badgers 18-3 and carried a decisive 2-0 lead into the waning moments of the match before UW snapped the shutout bid with a goal on a penalty kick in the 87th minute. The Buckeyes, however, played out the final moments and went on to seal the victory and the club's inaugural ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
Walker and her squad headed to South Bend, Ind. for its NCAA first round match up with perennial power and regional host Notre Dame. The Irish, ranked 21st in the final NCSAA poll, marked Ohio State's ninth ranked opponent of the 2002 season and unfortunately turned out to be the last as UND topped the Buckeyes 3-1 to advance to the regional finals.
The 2002 season was a landmark campaign for the Ohio State women's soccer program, which will serve to benefit the improvement of the club for year's to come.
"I am very proud of this team and what it accomplished this season," Walker said. "I am especially proud of this group of seniors. This NCAA Tournament match was a hurdle that no other Buckeye team has ever reached in the 10-year history of the program. The accomplishments this team has made this year will benefit many Ohio State teams in the future."