American defender Seth Jones was a top candidate to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NHL draft several weeks ago. His position was seemingly advanced when the defense-needy Colorado Avalanche won the draft lottery. But Jones fell to No. 4 and the teams that passed on him will see the error of their ways in time to come.One person who was happy about Jones’ early misfortune was Nashville Predators general manager David Poile.Jones was rated as the best defender in the draft. In addition, he was arguably the best overall player, so the Predators had a major steal on their hands when they snagged him with the fourth pick.
The 2013 Iron Bowl between Auburn and Alabama lived up to the anticipated hype in what was arguably one of the greatest college football games in history.Auburn beat Alabama 34-28 on the final play of the game. After being tied with .1 second left in the game, the Alabama Crimson Tide missed a long last-second field goal, where the Tigers’ Chris Davis caught the ball in the back of the end zone and ran it back for a 109-yard touchdown.“What it was like?” Davis said. “Like I keep saying, God is good, God is good.”Auburn’s coach Gus Malzahn attributed the win partially to the fans.“We talked about that we wanted to keep it close, and if we could get it to the fourth quarter playing at home, with our crowd, we would find a way to win,” Malzahn said. “You know, the way we won the last two weeks is really unbelievable.”
Serena Williams of the United States celebrates winning her women’s singles quarterfinals match against Italy’s Camila Giorgi, at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London, Tuesday July 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)LONDON (AP) — Serena Williams came up with a comeback to reach the semifinals at Wimbledon, then walked off Centre Court with her right index finger aloft.Yes, no matter what the rankings or seedings say, she still looks as if she’s capable of playing like someone who’s No. 1.Williams moved closer to her eighth title at the All England Club and 24th Grand Slam trophy overall — but first since missing more than a year while having a baby — by beating 52nd-ranked Camila Giorgi of Italy 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the quarterfinals Tuesday.“This is only my fourth tournament back, so I don’t feel pressure. I don’t feel I have to win this; I don’t feel I have to lose this,” Williams said. “I’m just here just to be here and to prove that I’m back. And I feel like I’m back. I still have a long way to go to be where I was.”Williams was seeded 25th by the All England Club, a nod to all of her past success at the grass-court major, including titles the last two times she entered it, in 2015 and 2016. She missed Wimbledon a year ago because she was pregnant, and she went about 16 months between Grand Slam tournaments, so her ranking is just outside the top 180.That is going to change now.Next up for the 36-year-old American is a match against No. 13 seed Julia Goerges of Germany, a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 winner against No. 20 Kiki Bertens of the Netherlands.This is all brand new for Goerges, who had never even been to a Grand Slam quarterfinal before this week. Plus, at Wimbledon in particular, she lost in the first round each of the past five years.Williams is 3-0 against Goerges, winning in straight sets each time.“Every match starts from zero,” Goerges said. “Everybody has the same chances to win that match, and I’m looking forward to it.”After their most recent meeting, in the French Open’s third round last month, Williams pulled out of that tournament, citing a chest muscle injury that made it too painful to serve.After going a couple of weeks without hitting a serve, Williams has regained her ability with that stroke nicely at Wimbledon.She hit one at 122 mph against Giorgi, delivered six of her seven aces in the final set, and won 44 of the last 54 points she served.It was the first time she’d needed to erase a real deficit this fortnight: Williams hadn’t dropped a set until facing Giorgi, who was in her first Grand Slam quarterfinal.“After the first set, I was like, ‘All right, let’s go three sets.’ And that’s kind of what I thought. … ‘I’ll just keep fighting,’” Williams said.The other semifinal Thursday will be No. 11 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany vs. No. 12 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia.Kerber is a former No. 1 who owns two Grand Slam titles and was the runner-up to Williams at the All England Club two years ago. Ostapenko won last year’s French Open.Kerber needed seven match points to close out No. 14 Daria Kasatkina of Russia 6-3, 7-5 at Centre Court, while Ostapenko defeated 2014 Australian Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia 7-5, 6-4 on a windy No. 1 Court.Kerber took advantage of Kasatkina’s 31 unforced errors, including seven double-faults, but took a while to end things. Kerber served for the victory at 5-4 in the second set, but got broken. When she served for it a second time, she needed to navigate a 16-point game that included five deuces and all of those match points, until forcing a forehand error on the last.Ostapenko played her usual aggressive style, compiling a 33-6 edge in winners.In the last men’s quarterfinal, which was suspended because of darkness after the third set Monday night, 2009 U.S. Open champion Juan Martin del Potro defeated Gilles Simon of France 7-6 (1), 7-6 (5), 5-7, 7-6 (5).Del Potro held four match points while serving for the victory at 5-4 in the fourth set, but had to wait until the last tiebreaker to advance in 4 hours, 24 minutes, making it the longest men’s singles match of the tournament.On Wednesday, del Potro faces Rafael Nadal.
New York Giants President John Mara said Tuesday that the NFL would probably not expand its postseason field from 12 to 14 teams for the 2014 season. But make no mistake, expansion is coming sooner or later. The television ratings for playoff matchups — even for early rounds — are so monstrous that it makes sense from a revenue-maximizing perspective to add postseason games.But how about from a football perspective? ESPN’s Stats & Information correctly points out that, even with 14 playoff qualifiers, only 43.7 percent of NFL teams would earn postseason berths, which is still lower than the 53.3 percent qualification rates in the NBA and NHL. Then again, both of those sports play best-of-seven series to determine who advances to the next round; the NFL’s postseason is a single-elimination tournament. (And, 2013 excepted, the NFL playoffs are trending toward less predictable outcomes as it is.)Even in a 12-team playoff format, the best team in football fails to win the Super Bowl far more often than not. But would a 14-team bracket add another layer of randomness? Using the power of Monte Carlo simulation and the theoretical distribution of true talent in the NFL, we can estimate how often a team of a given ranking in “true talent” wins the Super Bowl under both the 12-team format and the proposed 14-team arrangement. For both formats, I assigned each team a true-talent rating at random (from a normal distribution with a mean winning percentage of .500 and a standard deviation of .146) and simulated the 2013 NFL schedule 10,000 times, recording how often a team of a given talent ranking won the Super Bowl. Here are the results:As it turns out, a 14-team playoff format wouldn’t change much for the favorites’ chances of a Super Bowl victory. The No. 2 seed in each conference would be forced to play an extra game (rather than receiving a bye during the wild-card round), but that doesn’t move the needle a lot — mainly because the No. 1 seeds still get byes into the divisional round.What would really shake things up, though, would be a move to a 16-team bracket, which would give the NFL a playoff participation rate closer to the NBA and NHL (although the NFL would still be lower). If we run the same simulation process above but plug teams into a 16-team playoff format, the following probabilities emerge:Forcing the top seed in each conference to play an extra game would drastically shift the Super Bowl odds for the NFL’s three most talented teams, redistributing much of their current probabilistic advantage across the rest of the league. The move to a 16-team playoff would be a much bigger change than from 12 teams to 14.The remaining question is whether that’s a bad thing. A 16-team playoff would increase the role of chance in the NFL’s postseason — an element which has already been on the rise in recent seasons. The NFL’s landmark popularity over the past decade suggests that such parity has moved the league closer to the optimal mix of determinism and randomness. (By contrast, a system designed to turn the NFL playoffs into a science experiment always yielding the most deserving champion would be tedious and unpopular.) But it’s not clear whether there are diminishing returns to the NFL’s parity formula.
Home-ice advantage in the NHL playoffs might be a myth, but don’t tell that to the Nashville Predators. During these playoffs, the Preds are 9-1 when skating on their home sheet at Bridgestone Arena, and home wins in Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final have drawn them level with the Pittsburgh Penguins in the series, which moves back to Pittsburgh for Game 5 on Thursday.But it might have been bad luck in the first place that the Predators had to come home and dig out of a 2-0 hole. That’s because the Preds actually played pretty well during Games 1 and 2 in Pittsburgh, dominating possession and outshooting the Pens 64-39. If not for some uncharacteristically awful play from goalie Pekka Rinne, who stopped just 78 percent of the shots he faced in Games 1 and 2 before being pulled in the third period in Game 2, the Preds might already be planning their parade route through Nashville. (It’s not all on Rinne; some questionable officiating in Game 1 didn’t help the Preds much, either.)It was fitting, then, that Rinne’s return to form these past two games has Nashville back in the hunt for its first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Rinne was spectacular in Games 3 and 4 — he stopped 50 of the 52 shots he faced, including insane saves like this one. Rinne leads the playoffs in wins and ranks fourth in save percentage among qualified goalies. (And he’s shouldered a much larger workload than the three goalies ahead of him on that list.)Perhaps the best proof of Rinne’s revival is his dominance on high-quality scoring opportunities. The Penguins took more than twice as many shots from the slot — the dangerous area directly in front of the net1The definition of “the slot” varies depending on who you talk to, but in this case, we used its boundaries as defined by war-on-ice.com. — in Games 3 and 4 as they did in the series’ first two games (20 vs. 7) but scored seven fewer goals. If the Predators hope to finish off their comeback, they’ll need their netminder — who remains the favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as postseason MVP — to keep shaking off Games 1 and 2 and continue his excellent play.Rinne isn’t the only reason that Nashville has been able to claw its way back into the series. Nashville’s shooters have remembered how to finish: In Games 1 and 2, the Preds scored on just 6.3 percent of the shots they took. In Games 3 and 4, that number jumped to 15.3. And the Predators’ defense has limited the effectiveness of some of Pittsburgh’s top forwards. In Games 3 and 4, Phil Kessel, Chris Kunitz and Evgeni Malkin combined for a grand total of zero points on just nine shots and combined for a -10 plus/minus. For the Pens to avoid blowing a 2-0 series lead, they’ll need their stars — in particular Malkin, who leads the league in scoring this postseason — to start playing as such.Only five NHL teams have ever come back from a 2-0 series deficit in the finals and won; the Preds are in a position to become the sixth. To do it, they’ll need to keep dominating at home and win at least one game in Pittsburgh — much easier said than done. But based on the way Nashville has played this series, even in the losses, it has the goods to earn the state of Tennessee its long-awaited first pro championship.CORRECTION (June 7, 4:15 p.m.): An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that only four NHL teams have come back from a 2-0 series deficit to win the Stanley Cup Final. There have been five. The Nashville Predators are trying to become the sixth.
Playoff %Playoff % This year, though, New England is a perfect 5-0 at home but only 3-3 on the road — respectable but nowhere near the league’s best. (The Pats have also been outscored by 11 points in away games, against a road schedule that ranks just 28th in average opposing Elo.) And this might come up in the playoffs, unlike so many seasons in which the Pats had home-field advantage through the AFC title game.1Since 2010, New England has played a total of 15 non-Super Bowl playoff games — of which 13 have been hosted at Gillette Stadium. Right now, New England is in line for the AFC’s No. 2 seed behind the Kansas City Chiefs, but only a half-game separates them from the fourth-seeded Steelers.Owning the turnover battleTurnover margin is one of the most important factors in determining who wins or loses any football game. Conventional stathead wisdom, though, tells us that outlier turnover seasons — whether avoiding them on offense, forcing them on defense, or both — are unsustainable. While there are some ways a team can influence its tendency to have more takeaways than giveaways, a lot of it also comes down to luck.Unless, of course, you’re the Patriots. New England perennially dominates this category, ranking first by a mile from 2010 through 2017 with a +116 turnover differential, almost double that of the next-best team. A lot of that is a function of having Tom Brady at QB; he’s tied for the second-lowest interception percentage of any passer in NFL history. But the Pats are also great at avoiding fumbles — only the Falcons had coughed it up fewer times since 2010, and no team had lost fewer fumbles than the Pats. And their defense had forced the second-most turnovers of any team this decade (behind the Giants), ranking second in interceptions and tied for third in fumbles recovered.Such opportunism has historically paid big dividends for New England, but this year’s squad is still trying to recapture that formula. The Pats are currently +5 in turnovers, which ranks ninth in the league but is nothing special by their standards. Brady has his highest interception rate since 2013 (his seven picks already are only one off of his full-season total from last year), driving a big overall increase in giveaways per game, though the team is being more careful in recent weeks. And while the Pats have forced at least one turnover in all but one game this season, they are tied for eighth-to-last in the league in games with three or more takeaways, six behind the league-leading Bears.Yards and pointsIn addition to — and correlated with — their dominant turnover differential, the Patriots have always had another trick up their sleeves in terms of winning extra games. It involves their yards per point (YPP): essentially, how efficiently they turn field position into scores on offense and how inefficiently they force opponents to do the same. By definition, when you have a lower YPP than the opponent, you will win more often because you’re trading field position for points at a more favorable rate than they are.Like turnover margin, YPP is supposed to be pretty inconsistent from year to year, bouncing around with a team’s luck at picking up key first downs and converting red zone chances, along with the all-important knack for “bending but not breaking” on defense. Yet the Pats dominate this category so thoroughly and so consistently, it might be the single biggest factor in their ongoing success. Not only had they ranked first in both offensive and defensive YPP since 2010, but their net YPP differential of +5.6 was more than double the No. 2 Packers’ +2.5 mark over that span.(This is one of the big reasons that worries about the Patriots’ defense always need to be tempered. Belichick’s team has traditionally punched above its weight in terms of points allowed, just because it always makes opponents work so hard to turn gains on the field into rewards on the scoreboard.)This season, the Pats remain among the top net YPP teams, ranking fourth, but they are not quite dominating like usual. They rank just seventh in offensive YPP and sixth on defense, with a net YPP of +2.8, which trails the Bears, Saints and Chiefs. On top of the increase in turnovers per game from above, New England’s efficiency rankings on third down and in the red zone are worse, and the team has slipped in those same “situational” categories on defense. And if you want another cause for the Patriots’ YPP decline, their net starting field position is -2.6 yards per drive this season (meaning the opponent starts 2.6 yards closer to the end zone than the Pats), after a decade in which that number was a league-best +4.6.In other words, many of the little things that usually add up to that massive YPP advantage for New England aren’t quite working as well so far this year. But the good news for the Pats is that their turnover margin and net YPP tend to improve radically from this point in the season onward, in no small part because Belichick specifically tries to build a tough, physical team that thrives in bad weather. So even in a relative down season by their key indicators, don’t be surprised if the Patriots build them up at least some before season’s end.Gronk smash!Tight end Rob Gronkowski has long been the Pats’ not-so-secret weapon on offense, helping the team transition seamlessly from the powerful Randy Moss-Wes Welker offense of a previous era to the version that’s been terrorizing the league for most of this decade.But the famously fragile Gronk has appeared to show his age and mileage this season more than perhaps ever before. He’s missed three games with various ailments, and when he has played, he’s been limited to just 63.0 yards per game with a career-low 0.25 touchdown catches per contest. Gronkowski’s reduced mobility has hurt his trademark ability to rumble after the catch for spectacular gains, and it’s made him much less of a focal point in the offense than he’s accustomed to being. When on the field, Gronk has seen only 18.7 percent of the targets in the Pats’ passing game, his lowest number since getting 17.7 percent as a rookie.But Gronk’s influence on the Patriots’ offense remains undeniable. In the eight games the star tight end has played in 2018, Brady’s passer rating is 98.2; in the three he missed, it dropped to 91.6 (league average is 94.9). Even with Gronkowski playing in a more limited physical condition than usual, producing less of a statistical footprint than before, this is confirmation that he’s still one of the biggest engines driving the Patriots’ success. The biggest question might simply be what kind of durability Gronkowski’s banged-up body will have over the rest of the season.Brady stays ageless … sort ofAlong with Belichick, the one constant in New England’s dynasty has been No. 12 under center. Brady has probably been the single most valuable player in the NFL this century, and he’s been crucial in engineering five Super Bowl titles for the Patriots with his consistency, leadership and ability to rally the team back from seemingly insurmountable deficits.But at 41 — an age at which almost no other QB has ever been productive — there is a near-constant watch for any sign of slippage in Brady’s performance. And he has been a bit less sharp statistically than in years past. His adjusted net yards per attempt index at Pro-Football-Reference.com, which measures passing efficiency relative to the league (where 100 is average), is 111 this year, down from 117 last season and 138 the year before that. It hadn’t been so low since Brady was barely above average (102) in 2013.Of course, there are reasons for Brady’s decline that go beyond his advanced age, from Gronk’s aforementioned absences to a four-game suspension for top target Julian Edelman at the start of the season and a WR corps in flux early on before adding Josh Gordon and shuffling roles for the likes of Phillip Dorsett and (WR-turned-RB) Cordarrelle Patterson. But Brady has managed to work around weird receiving situations before — and, in fact, his passer rating was better over the season’s first four games (94.0) than it’s been over the four most recent ones (90.8).Combine that with a ProFootballFocus grade that’s down a bit from last season (though still sixth-best among QBs) and those ubiquitous stats about Brady’s off-target throws (at 22.1 percent, no qualified passer has thrown an errant pass more frequently this year), and it’s fair to ask whether Brady is playing at quite the same level as he did over the past few seasons. Whether because of Brady or the receivers, the Pats are currently tied for eighth in adjusted net yards per attempt — their worst showing since (again) 2013, a season that saw New England fall short in the AFC title game.2Though it does bear mentioning that six of the eight Super Bowl champs this decade ranked among the top 10 in ANY/A, right in line with the Pats’ current performance. Taken altogether, these numbers reveal a Patriots squad that is not fully playing at the level it’s used to at this stage of the season. And that shows up in big-picture indicators such as Elo or even point differential, where the Pats’ +58 margin is its weakest of the decade through 11 contests. But even so, a lessened version of the Patriots still ranks among the league’s top teams. And as we mentioned above, the Vikings will be a good opponent for Belichick to use as a measuring stick for his roster. According to our combination of matchup quality (i.e., the harmonic mean of the teams’ Elo ratings in each game) and game importance (how likely it is to swing either team’s odds of making the playoffs), this will be the fourth-best game of the week: HOU95.73.8CLE126.96.36.19962 GB6.13.0ARI<0.1<0.13.01412 BUF56JAX55BUF 24, JAX 21-13.0– WSH38.9%+/-19.5PHI23.7%+/-11.130.61525 NO81NO83NO 31, ATL 17-0.9– CIN75%CIN63%CLE 35, CIN 20+13.4– The best matchups of Week 13Week 13 games by ranking of average Elo ratings (using the harmonic mean) plus ranking of total potential swing for the two teams’ playoff chances, according to FiveThirtyEight’s NFL predictions CHI96.33.9NYG<0.1<0.13.91474 KC99.90.2OAK<0.1<0.10.21479 IND29.514.5JAX0.10.114.71468 IND68IND70IND 27, MIA 24-0.6– SEA74.910.5SF<0.1<0.110.51460 HOU58HOU63HOU 34, TEN 17+2.3– PIT70PIT69DEN 24, PIT 17+0.0 Home teams are in bold.The scoring system is nonlinear, so readers’ average points don’t necessarily match the number of points that would be given to the average reader prediction. DEN13.010.7CIN6.45.316.01453 Game quality is the harmonic mean of the Elo ratings for the two teams in a given matchup.*Average change is weighted by the likelihood of a win or loss. (Ties are excluded.)Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group LAC88.27.0PIT93.95.612.61619 DET1.31.6LAR>99.9<0.11.61550 LAC84LAC85LAC 45, ARI 10-0.9– MIA5.13.9BUF188.8.131.5225 Here’s a surprise: The New England Patriots are 8-3, leading the AFC East, with some of the best odds in the conference of winning the Super Bowl.Oh, right. I’ve just described basically every Pats season in recent memory. This is the ninth consecutive season that New England has won at least eight of its first 11 games. The team’s current Elo rating of 1641, however, is the lowest it’s been through the same stage of the season since 2009 (and we don’t talk about that season).So what are we to make of these Patriots, then? After overcoming the typical early season hiccups, is this year’s version ready to build championship momentum down the stretch like normal? Or is there still something a little bit off about a team that was showering its punter (of all players) with praise after an uncharacteristically modest win over the lowly New York Jets last week?In advance of New England’s showdown Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, let’s take a look at some of the Patriots’ calling-card metrics to see whether this season is business as usual in Foxboro.Road warriors?One of the Pats’ most eye-catching statistics during Bill Belichick’s time as head coach has been their near-invincibility at home, where they’ve won 87 percent of their games this decade. But their road record — winning more than 70 percent of the time away from Gillette Stadium — could be even more remarkable. From 2010 to 2017, the Pats’ winning percentage on the road was about 10.5 percentage points higher than what we’d expect from their home record — the third biggest gap in the NFL (behind the Cowboys and Eagles): NE77NE82NE 27, NYJ 13+0.4– Team ACurrentAvg. Chg*Team BCurrentAvg. Chg*Total ChangeGame Quality BAL46.118.0ATL4.23.121.01539 While the game has a lot more at stake for Minnesota, whose spot in the playoffs is still not fully locked in, there is still plenty for the Patriots to play for as well. Not only will this game affect seeding for the postseason (Elo says the Pats currently have a 60 percent chance of securing a first-round playoff bye), but it will also be another telling data point as to whether the Pats can get back to their mega-dominant form of the recent past, or if they’ll be merely good — but mortal — according to their signature metrics.FiveThirtyEight vs. the readersIf you want to know where your team stands, FiveThirtyEight’s Elo ratings are a good indicator. You can check them out in our NFL prediction interactive, which simulates the rest of the season 100,000 times and tracks how often each team should make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. Did you know you can also pick against the Elo algorithm in our prediction game? Try it out, and maybe you can climb up our giant leaderboard.Here are the games in which Elo made its best — and worst — predictions against the reader picks last week: CHI53CHI59CHI 23, DET 16+2.9– MIN62.813.6NE99.11.014.61610 OUR PREDICTION (ELO)READERS’ PREDICTION MIN71MIN60MIN 24, GB 17-10.0– DAL65DAL67DAL 31, WSH 23-0.5– Elo’s dumbest (and smartest) picks of Week 12Average difference between points won by readers and by Elo in Week 12 matchups in FiveThirtyEight’s NFL prediction game On average, Elo beat our readers by 18.9 points in the game last week, bringing its record to 11 wins and one loss so far this season. Readers had the best pick of Week 12 — rightly pumping the brakes on Cincinnati’s chances of beating the Browns — but they were punished for picking against Elo in the Bills’ upset over the Jaguars, and they didn’t show enough faith in the victorious Vikings, Eagles and Bucs.Among individual users who did better than average, congrats are in order to Ryan Gnizak, who led all users in Week 12 with 263.5 points, and to Greg Chili Van Hollebeke, who held on to a slim lead for the entire season with 934.5 points. Thanks to everyone who has been playing — and if you haven’t, be sure to get in on the action! You can make picks now and still try your luck against Elo, even if you haven’t played yet.Check out our latest NFL predictions. CAR62CAR57SEA 30, CAR 27+4.1– BAL83BAL81BAL 34, OAK 17-2.3– TB63TB58TB 27, SF 9-5.7– PHI80PHI69PHI 25, NYG 22-8.1– DAL60.313.3NO>184.108.40.206635 PICKWIN PROB.PICKWIN PROB.ResultREADERS’ NET PTS TEN20.57.2NYJ<0.1<0.17.21417 CAR30.914.9TB0.70.815.71492
The Ohio State club football team began its inaugural season Sept. 27 with a 21-20 loss to Miami University. Despite the loss, coach Max Claman feels that the team played exceptionally well considering the circumstances.“I was surprised at how well we held up,” said Claman, a junior sports and leadership studies student. “We lost by one point despite the fact that we committed six turnovers. The Miami coaches said we played the best game by a team playing their first-ever game that they had ever seen.”Nerves were high before the game since most of the players have not stepped on a field since high school, junior safety Joe Budgake said.“I was a little nervous before the game since it was going to be the first time in three years I had stepped on a football field,” said Budgake, who is also a team captain and the club’s president.The team has had to come together in light of the fact that its original coach, Jack Solak, left to play quarterback at Florida Atlantic University.“He had a great opportunity presented to him and I can’t blame him or be mad at him for it,” Budgake said. “He got us started and still was the first club football coach. His work was greatly appreciated.”In addition to losing its coach, the team is coping with players quitting the team almost every week, leaving the team’s roster at a paltry 22. Yet the team’s chemistry is a non-issue, Claman said.“That’s the least of our problems. We’ve got great cohesion and good balance,” Claman said. “This is club football; everyone here wants to be here.”However, since it is club football, the team members are students first and players second. When a player can’t make it to practice because of homework or a job, there’s nothing the team can do.“Obviously with two practices a week we’d like to get as many guys as we can here, but we can’t do anything about it if guys don’t come,” Claman said. “Who shows up dictates what we can run in practice.”According to the team’s Web site, Budgake and juniors Marshal Carpenter and Jordan Fleischman founded the team for those who “love football” and “understand what it takes to work hard and be successful.”“I started this club and play on the team because I love playing football and because I wanted to do something big here at Ohio State,” junior wide receiver Carpenter said. “Ohio State University is the largest in the nation and we have every other club sport you could think of besides the most obvious, football.”The team conducted tryouts in the middle of April and practiced sparingly over the summer.In the team’s 2009 schedule, they will host Xavier and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, host and travel to Wright State and play West Virginia either in Morgantown or Columbus. Carpenter believes the team will excel despite its lack of experience and small numbers.“We expect to win every game and beat everyone we play. That is the attitude of the team,” said Carpenter, who is also a team captain and the club’s vice president. “We all have that same attitude and believe losing is unacceptable. With that said all of these teams are just like us; college students who love football and want to keep playing.”Claman remains cautiously optimistic about the season prospects, knowing the obstacles the team is up against.“We have to be realistic,” Claman said. “We have zero funding. Miami of Ohio’s club football team gets $12,000 a year from the university. We’re just trying to make an impact and trying to show that we’re legitimate and maybe that’ll show the university we’re legitimate.”The team hopes its unity paves a path to legitimacy, Carpenter said.“The camaraderie is amazing. All the guys get together really well. We all try to hang out outside of practice and really have a good time,” Carpenter said. “We all like to joke and have fun, but when it comes down to actually doing hard work, conditioning, or running through plays we all suck it up and get the job done.”
Ohio State’s men’s and women’s cross country teams will be competing at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship meet with different goals. The men’s team is moving up in the national rankings and the women’s team is hoping for a big finish at the regional meet to secure a spot in the NCAA National Championship meet.After a disappointing 22nd-place finish at the NCAA Pre-National meet Oct. 17, the men’s team has been on a roll. It finished with 11 runners in the top 13 at the Eastern Michigan Fall Classic meet on Oct. 23 and second overall at the Big Ten Championship meet Nov. 1.When the national rankings were released Nov. 2, the men’s team was ranked in the Top 30 for the first time this season at No. 28.The men’s team needs to finish in the top two at the regional meet to be guaranteed a spot in the National Championship meet. If the Buckeyes finish third, they could get an at-large berth.The competition at the regional meet will be tough with two other nationally ranked teams, No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 26 Butler, in attendance.“I think Wisconsin has to be the favorite once again, but I absolutely expect us to be second,” senior runner Jeff See said. “There are a few other teams that should be tough to beat. We just have to stay focused throughout the whole race.”The key to the race is formulating a plan and sticking to it, See said. At the pre-national meet, the team did not have a plan and placed poorly. At the Big Ten Championship meet, they had a plan and executed it to perfection en route to a second place finish.See said the X-factor for the team will be redshirt sophomore Taylor Williams.“I think it’s really important for Taylor Williams to have a big day,” See said. “He’s been ourbackbone for a lot of the ups and downs we’ve faced this season, and if myself and the rest of the team sees him out there having a huge day, we will all follow suit.”The women’s team finished eighth at the Big Ten Championship meet, which hurt its opportunity to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA National Championship meet by dropping them to a No. 5 ranking in the region.“The race was tough, but we all took something away from the experience and I think that as a team, we’ve come away with that much more focus and determination for regionals,” junior Jordan Jennewine said.The top two teams at the regional meet automatically qualify for the NCAA National Championship meet. Without a top-two finish by the Buckeyes, the outlook for a place at the National Championship meet seems bleak.“It’s definitely our goal to finish in the top two at regionals and not leave anything to chance. That’s a very realistic goal for us and that’s what we’ve all been focused on since the conference meet,” Jennewine said.The NCAA Great Lakes Regional meet takes place Saturday at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, Ind.
When Ohio State hired Melissa Schaub as its assistant women’s tennis coach in 2011, it was an exciting homecoming for the Ohio native. “I don’t know if it gets any better than Ohio State and being a part of this athletic department,” Schaub said. Now, after spending just a year on the Buckeyes’ staff, Schaub finds herself as the interim coach for the 2012-13 season after the departure of former coach Chuck Merzbacher, who was hired by Minnesota in July. She said she always wanted to return to Ohio and coach the Buckeyes. “It’s been great, it’s a dream come true job for me at Ohio State, being from Ohio and just growing up a fan,” Schaub said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls. They’ve made the transition easy.” Still less than midway through the season, some members of the team said they have bought into what their new coach is teaching them and look to build on a promising start to the year. Junior Noelle Malley has been at OSU longer than Schaub has, but Malley has picked up on Schaub developing leadership as the year has gone on. “I feel like she has gained more confidence in what she’s telling us, and she’s adjusted to her role really well,” Malley said. “She’s just doing what she wants in practice and seeing what we need to work on.” During Schaub’s first season in Columbus as an assistant coach, the team struggled, going 10-15 on the year. Malley already feels more confident about achieving a better result than last year with Schaub at the helm. “Everybody is in way better shape this year,” Malley said. “We feel really confident when we play matches.” Graduating from Tennessee in 2006, Schaub was a star for the Volunteers, earning All-American honors her freshman season in Knoxville. Gabby Steele, a senior for the Buckeyes, said she likes having a coach that is close to her age who knows what they are dealing with as student-athletes. “It helps because she’s able to relate a lot,” Steele said. “She just got out of college, too, so she knows exactly what we are going through.” Not one to let distractions get in the way, Schaub said she is confident that the shaky job security that comes with the title of interim coach will not change how she goes about the season. “You can’t let that get in the way of the kind of coach you’re going to be or how you treat the team,” Schaub said. “It’s all about trying to get wins and bettering the program and getting these guys to buy into the system.” The Buckeyes are set to travel to West Lafayette, Ind., to play Purdue for their first conference road trip game of the season on Friday at 3 p.m.
OSU sophomore midfielder Nikki Walts (4) dribbles the ball during a game agaisnt Minnesota on Sept. 17 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU lost 2-1. Credit: Sam Harris / For The LanternThe Ohio State women’s soccer team reached the midway point of their season Sunday afternoon in relatively uneventful fashion, drawing a scoreless tie with the Wisconsin Badgers.OSU coach Lori Walker said she was disappointed the team could not pick up a win, but she was encouraged by its overall effort.“I think we have got to take responsibility for the execution of our finishing, and it’s not sharp enough yet,” Walker said. “We created some great chances, but great chances don’t earn you points. I’m appreciative of our effort and the work we put into 110 minutes of soccer, but we are disappointed that we couldn’t walk away with three points.”A crowd of 1,174 was on hand to watch the No. 20 Buckeyes (5-2-2, 0-1-1) face the Badgers (3-4-3, 0-1-1) in the team’s second conference match.In the first half of play, the Buckeyes outshot the Badgers 7-5, and 3-1 in shots on goal. Wisconsin sophomore goalkeeper Caitlyn Clem stood strong with three saves to keep the half scoreless.The second half started quiet until OSU redshirt junior goalkeeper Jillian McVicker slid in the box to corral a loose ball. She took a hit from a Badgers player and was replaced by freshman goalkeeper Devon Kerr in the 63rd minute of play.Kerr, who had made three appearances prior to Sunday’s game, said she was excited for her chance to get in a game in a key spot.“Obviously (I was) nervous, especially being a freshman. I felt a little bit shaky coming into it, but I took it with great excitement,” Kerr said. “Our team was in a really good spot. I wanted to do whatever I could do to make a difference in the result of the game.”Eight minutes later, she made her presence felt with a lunging save against Badgers freshman midfielder Victoria Pickett, the first of four saves on the day for the Ontario product.“I came out with a couple of big stops, but my team did an amazing job defending,” Kerr said. “I think as a team today we did very well, and I think that I did help a lot with it.”The game almost came to a close in regulation as sophomore forward Sammy Edwards had two close shots in the final two minutes of the second half. Clem stood tall, and the game went to overtime.The extra period saw plenty of action as the Buckeyes and Badgers combined for six shots, three for each team. Both teams also had a goal disallowed during the extra action.Following Sunday’s game, the Buckeyes are halfway through their season. Walker said she is happy with the way the team is adjusting at this point in the season but still sees room for improvement.“I think we are adapting and adjusting much faster than we were in the beginning of the season,” she said. “Clearly we have got to take care of business in that final third and inside the box a little bit better, but I’m pleased with the adjustments they’re making on the fly.”The back half of the Buckeyes’ schedule is road heavy, with the next three games being away from Columbus. Walker, however, said she sees that as a positive.“In some ways being on the road is easier because you can control almost everything that’s going on,” Walker said. “I think we traditionally do pretty well on the road and we just take them one game at a time.”The Buckeyes are next set to take the field on Friday in Iowa City, Iowa, as they face the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.