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Men’s Soccer: Buckeyes begin NCAA Tournament against Wake Forest Thursday

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The No. 16 Ohio State men’s soccer team will travel to No. 20 Wake Forest on Thursday for the first round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

Ohio State’s road to the College Cup begins Thursday.

With the No. 16 Buckeyes (10-3-5, 5-3-2 Big Ten) returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015, head coach Brian Maisonneuve and his team seek to capitalize off the near-complete roster.

In particular, freshman midfielder Marko Borkovic missed eight matches due to not meeting player eligibility requirements but played 33 minutes in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals loss against Rutgers Nov. 9. Borkovic said he is “buzzing for the game on Thursday.”

“Luckily, I was still allowed to train with the team and stuff, got a lot of fitness work done while the boys were playing,” Borkovic said. “But it’s a great feeling to be back out on the pitch.”

Junior midfielder Laurence Wootton said it was “brilliant” to have Borkovic back.

“He brings real energy to the side and he’s a constant goal threat,” Wootton said. “Excited to see what he can do in Wake Forest as well.”

Maisonneuve said Borkovic is “one of the cleanest strikers of the ball we have” and looks forward to getting him back in the rotation.

“Depending on whether he plays wide, midfielder or up top, I mean he’s very dangerous in both spots,” Maisonneuve said. “We plan on using him in both, knowing that, you know, he was out quite a few games.”

Maisonneuve said he’s excited to bring the Buckeyes back to the tournament but knows his team “has some work to do.”

“Our body of work was definitely deserving of an opportunity,” Maisonneuve said. “Our [Ratings Power Index] was right there on the bubble. So, you know, I thought we did enough to get in.”

Maisonneuve said he knows the No. 20 Demon Deacons (14-5, 5-3 ACC) are skilled at both controlling the ball and keeping opposing teams out of their defending third.

“They are very talented on both sides of the ball, but I think probably what sticks out the most is just how they build up in possession,” Maisonneuve said. “They’re very good, they make teams chase in terms of their possession. I think they were only out-possessed by one team this whole year.”

With a forecast of sub-40-degree temperatures, Borkovic, a native of Maidenhead, England, said he prefers to compete in cold weather because it’s similar to his hometown.

“I’m used to it,” Borkovic said. “The balls zip around the grass nicely. So yeah, I’m buzzing a lot. I’m sure Laurence is buzzing as well.”

Wootton said he’s eager to make the most of his first NCAA Tournament appearance.

“Wake Forest, they have a good side. We’re not underestimating anything,” Wootton said. “Like we say, just got to enjoy your football now. It’s do or die.”

Wootton and the Buckeyes look to continue a great season in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, at W. Dennie Spry Soccer Stadium Thursday at 6 p.m. ESPN + will livestream.

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