BEREA, Ohio – With the last two games looming, the Baldwin Wallace University men's soccer team will look to continue to make progress in the final week of the season.
In a season that has featured some of the toughest Ohio Athletic Conference competition that head coach Reid Ayers has seen in his 16 years at the helm, the Yellow Jackets (5-10-2, 1-5-1 OAC) have certainly made improvements over previous seasons. Led by sophomore All-OAC forward Danny Ruple (Berea/Berea-Midpark) who ranks in the top five nationally in goals scored this season, BW currently has the highest goals per game average since the 2011 season.
"Certainly there have been some areas of the game that we've been really good this year," Ayers commented. "We have a guy who's top five in the country in scoring. The number of assists that are coming off the goals, it's not a one horse show up there. Our ideas in the attack have been really quite good."
In fact, the Yellow Jackets have scored first in five of their seven OAC contests to date but have been unable to maintain that early lead throughout a full 90 minutes.
"I feel like the strategies going into games have been strong," Ayers said. "That's been a big piece in achieving the early leads. When they get the lead, it's almost like they feel an added pressure and that tightness is causing them to not play as well. I'd like more of a cohesive performance, taking care of the ball more consistently. That's a key point for us."
The Yellow Jackets will close out the regular season at home with back-to-back games against Ohio Northern University and Capital University. Ohio Northern currently sits in fifth place at 11-5-1 and 4-3 in conference while the Crusaders are in a tie for sixth place at 9-6-1 and a 3-3-1 mark. While both teams are in the middle of the pack, Ayers know that both opponents present a difficult challenge as the Yellow Jackets strive to finish off the season on a high note.
"This has just been an incredible year in terms of the quality in the OAC," Ayers remarked. "It is very, very difficult to win games in the Ohio Athletic Conference this year. This is a year that I would say is a banner year for the OAC. I would say the quality of the 10 teams in our conference this year would measure up favorably with anyone in the country."
Ayers added, "It's always nice to play at home. I think, for us, we have two quality opponents coming in. We certainly want to finish strong but also to make some significant progress this week. This week is no different than week one in August. It's not going to be easy … That being said, we have two of our nine games left. I expect us to go out and play well with that caveat of are we playing well in certain areas."
On Saturday night, the Yellow Jackets will take the time to honor the team's two seniors, goalkeeper Ryan Asbury (Cincinnati/Turpin) and defender David Elsen (Cleves/St. Xavier) for the four years of dedication and commitment they have given to the men's soccer program and are hoping to send them off on a high note.
"We want our seniors to have a great last week of the season," Ayers said. "We hope that, collectively, we're better and, individually, I hope some of our guys make statements for themselves to gather some individual recognition."