The OSU men’s soccer team will kick off conference play in grueling fashion when they travel to California this week. Games against 22nd-ranked San Diego State and 13th-ranked UCLA will be a tough test for a team that has both impressed and underwhelmed at times this season.
The first of the two road games, against SDSU (5-1-2) on Thursday, will see the Beavers (4-3-1) try to breach an Aztec defense that has allowed just three goals through eight games this season.
Junior forward Jordan Jones, the Beavers’ leading goal-scorer thus far, insists the team is relishing the challenge.
“It’s important to always get balls in the back of the net, whether I’m scoring or anyone else is scoring,” Jones said. “ It’s exciting to start conference play and everyone’s itching to get back at it.”
Oregon State will look to exploit SDSU’s struggles on the other end of the field, however, as the Aztecs’ tally of just eight goals is the least of the teams in the Pac-12.
Kickoff against San Diego State is at 7 p.m. on Thursday.
The Beavers will then travel up the road to Los Angeles, where they will face UCLA (4-2-1) after a few days’ rest. Here they will come up against an efficient outfit: the Bruins’ goal differential of plus-nine is the best in the Pac-12.
Oregon State’s Redshirt Junior Defender Jalen Markey says that the team will hold itself to a high standard against these strong opponents.
“I have confidence in all my teammates. I know that they can do the job that’s asked of them,” he said. “This weekend [we want to] make a statement. We always want to be winning every game so we’ll look at it as upsetting if we don’t come away with six points.”
For head coach Steve Simmons, there is extra motivation to be found trying to improve on last season’s run of conference games. Three wins, six losses, and a tie was the Beavers’ record against the Pac-12 last season, and Simmons says that improving this record is always on his team’s mind.
“I’d be lying to you if I said that the guys aren’t disappointed with how we finished off last year,” Simmons said. “But this is a new group of players, this is the second season for us, and the guys want to continue to raise the bar.”
Simmons is also embracing the challenging start to conference play.
“The challenge of being on the road is awesome.” said Simmons who is coaching his eighth year at OSU. “I think it’s the closest thing in college soccer to being a pro—having to go on the road in the Pac-12—it’s got all the intangibles that professional road games have. It’s great for us and I know the guys are looking forward to it.”
Fans will be able to watch the game against UCLA live on the Pac-12 Network. Kickoff is Sunday, Oct. 2, at 3 p.m.