Ohio Soccer’s postseason magic runs out in 3-0 defeat to Michigan State

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOUB) — Three times would not be the charm for Ohio in the state of Michigan.  

After two postseason victories in Kalamazoo, which included the program’s first ever MAC title, head Coach Aaron Rodgers and his crew made their way to DeMartin Stadium in East Lansing.  

It was their biggest game of the season, but a pair of goals from Bella Najera was too much to overcome in Ohio’s 3-0 loss. 

Spartans’ Home Cooking Serves up Early Lead  

Two minutes. That’s all it took for Michigan State to break the deadlock. The ball was up for grabs in Ohio’s penalty area off an ensuing free kick near the far-side corner.  

It seemed like the Bobcats had it handled – until the referee’s whistle blew.  

A handball was called on Ohio’s Ella Bianco and a penalty kick was rewarded to the home team. It was then up to first-year Spartan Bella Najera, who showed no fear as she slotted the ball off the top of the crossbar and into the net.  

Ohio barely had time to catch its breath. And before they knew it, they were gasping for a goal. 

Offense had been the driving force in the Bobcats’ postseason success heading into Friday night’s contest. However, Michigan State’s commanding control of possession put Ohio’s plan of a response on hold.  

The Spartans took advantage of every gap in the Bobcats’ defense, forcing Celeste Sloma into five saves in the first 45 minutes – her most in an opening half during this postseason.  

Michigan State’s high-powered push eventually paid off again in the 26th minute. Once again, it was Najera who carved her way through the Ohio back line. She recovered the ball from the baseline and found Senior Justina Gaynor. 

Gaynor smashed the ball towards goal with her left foot and Sloma could do nothing about it. 

It marked Gaynor’s fifth goal of the season. But Ohio found itself on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline.  

The first half whistle could not have been a more pleasant sound for Rodgers and his staff. Ohio failed to attempt any shots in the opening 45 minutes.  

Friday Night Physicality 

Michigan State’s continuous attack forced the Bobcats to play in a defensive slugfest. Ohio committed 19 fouls on Friday night – its highest in the 2023 postseason.  

Both teams finished with a combined 35 fouls. 

Najera Turns Off Ohio’s Lights 

Fans at DeMartin Stadium could sense their team was on the verge. With 13 minutes remaining in the match, Najera assured anyone who may have been in doubt.  

It was a set piece that did Ohio damage this time. Multiple Michigan State players leaped towards the ball off a corner kick. After a slight deflection, it once again found itself at the lethal right foot of Najera.  

She slid the ball home and tripled the advantage. It would turn out to be the deciding goal that sent the Bobcats packing.  

The final minutes winded down and Ohio’s season was over. 

A Season to Remember 

The Bobcats held their heads high when the final whistle sounded – including Rodgers, who took his team to heights they had never been before.  

Rodgers and his team accumulated a 4-7-5 overall record after a 1-0 loss to Miami on October 19, which included just two conference wins.  

The Bobcats then won both of their final two regular season games before edging into the MAC Tournament, where the magic continued with three more victories. 

Although it may have been a tale of two seasons for Ohio, it was a tale unlike any other.