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2023 MACtion on the Pitch: NCAA Tournament First Round

Making their first ever NCAA tournament appearance, Ohio took on Michigan State.

Ohio’s Carsyn Prigge (#24) moves the ball in Ohio’s 3-0 loss to Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament
Ohio Athletics

Welcome back to MACtion on the Pitch. It’s NCAA tournament time. The Bobcats made program history by making it to the national tournament for the first time. They drew the Michigan State Spartans in the first round.

History in the NCAA Tournament

The MAC has a 6-21 record in the NCAA women’s soccer tournament, with no team winning a game in the Big Dance since 2013, when Western Michigan defeated Marquette, 1-0. Miami leads the MAC with three NCAA tournament wins (2001, 2002, 2012) while Western Michigan has two (2003, 2013), and Central Michigan has one (2019). Could Ohio continue their incredible run?

Game Recap (Final: 3-0 Michigan State)

The Bobcats and Spartans kicked off their tournament runs on Friday night. Ohio found themselves in a hole early, as a handball penalty at the 2:44 mark gave Michigan State’s Bella Najera a penalty kick opportunity, which converted off the crossbar and past Bobcat keeper Celeste Sloma. (Credit: NCAA Soccer/X)

The situation would get worse about halfway throguh the first half, as Michigan State’s Justina Gaynor would score off a Bella Najera assist to put the Spartans found themselves up 2-0. In almost 27 minutes of action, Michigan State had 13 shots, seven of which were on goal. The Bobcats had yet to put up a single shot.

Sloma made five saves on seven shots at this point, with the halftime deficit sitting at 2-0. The Spartan defense did not allow Ohio to take one shot through 45 minutes. Michigan State took 16 total shots in the first half, pressuring Ohio to commit eight fouls.

The ‘Cats were busy once again at the start of the second half, as Sloma would make her sixth save of the game just one minute in— and have to do so again just 90 seconds later to tally seven. Sloma would make her third save of the second half in the 58th minute.

Ohio would finally get a shot on goal with 17:59 to go in the contest, with Ella Bianco taking the chance. Spartan keeper Kaitlyn Parks corralled the ball to make her first save of the night.

With 13:17 to go, Michigan State’s Bella Najera would score her second of the night with assists from Justina Gaynor and Zivana Labovic to put Sparty up 3-0. Haley Miller and Parks would cross paths twice more, with MSU’s keeper winning out both times. Maia Kaufman would get Ohio’s final shot on goal with 18 seconds remaining, but as she had all night, Parks would make the save, preserving her clean sheet effort.

Michigan State earned their way to the next round with the win after putting up a dominating 25-3 shot advantage. Ohio’s Sloma 10 saves in the game were not enough in a stalwart effort.

While Ohio’s season ended, we congratulate them for their incredible run to end the season. Being an inaugural postseason champion and making the team’s first-ever NCAA Tournament immortalizes the 2023 Bobcats in program lore, and could be the start of a new run of form. They’ll be looking to add more trophies to their case in 2024. (Credit: Ohio Soccer/X)

With that, MACtion on the Pitch 2023 has officially come to an end. We thank you all for following this incredible season with us. The countdown to 2024 starts now!