Niebuhr Goal Boosts Ohio Over Ball State

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The home crowd held its breath in the 16th minute as Ohio captain Gabby Hausfeld ran into her senior goalkeeper Nicole Amari and failed to get up. The expression on her face and the anxiousness from the bench said it all; she would not be playing any more minutes in this match.

Losing any player, especially one’s captain, can be hard. But freshman Megan Niebuhr was ready to step into the senior’s place, and the underclassman came up huge on Friday, scoring the lone goal to give the Bobcats’ 1-0 win over Ball State.

“Honestly I don't even remember what happened, I think I actually blacked out afterwards,” Niebuhr said about her goal. “But sometimes it just comes down to who wants to score the most. And [Ohio coach Aaron Rodgers] talks a lot about who wants the most and who has the most pride on the field.

“And without my team around me that probably would never have happened.”

Niebuhr stepped in to the center of defense spectacularly for Hausfeld, immediately striking up a partnership with fellow center back Grace Campbell and denying the Cardinals (6-3-3, 2-3 in MAC) in each of their forays into Ohio’s (6-7, 3-2) defensive third.

“I’ve played center back during practice and I think I have a good understanding of what I was doing,” Niebuhr said. “Grace is a great person to play next to. She really calms you down and is always telling you what to do and where to go. Honestly it kind of felt like home to me.”

It looked like it from the freshman’s play, as she combined well with her other defenders and often drifted upfield to help Ohio on the offensive end. And one of her forward runs ended up putting the ball in the net.

In the 49th minute, the Bobcats had a corner that didn’t exactly go as planned. The ball was overshot slightly, but redshirt sophomore Carly Manso didn't give up on the play, corralling the ball from the byline and sending in a low cross.

The ball seemed to miss just about everyone but the towering Niebuhr, as she slipped the shot past everyone in the box and in to the corner of the net for her first Ohio goal.

“I really feel like we came out with a much-improved mentality today,” Rodgers said. “I felt like we created a good rhythm and created a few chances.”

Rodgers also said that he felt this was one of the best games he’s seen during his tenure at Ohio.

“That was probably the most complete 90 minutes that we’ve played since I’ve been here,” he said. “And that was great to see and encouraging for them to hear that and to understand that it was a fantastic performance.”

Everything seemed to fall in line for the Bobcats, with a few Cardinal chances being smothered by Amari and the defense. The offense stepped up as well, showing a flow and work rate that kept the game working predominantly in Ohio’s favor.

The day was also special for sophomore Alexis Milesky and Manso, due to the significance of the “Kick Cancer” game. Both players have had family members who had breast cancer and the night gave them the opportunity to play for those that they love.

“I can’t even explain the feeling,” Milesky said. “Knowing what this month means and being able to play for them. After all they’ve gone through for me, it’s just special. It’s a feeling that is almost indescribable.”

Now the focus shifts to the annual rivalry game against the Miami RedHawks on Sunday. The RedHawks are 9-2-2, including 3-1-2 in the Mid-American Conference and will prove a tough challenge for Ohio.

The game will be nationally broadcasted on NSCAA TV and starts at 1 p.m. at Chessa Field.