You’re reading Significant Digits, a daily digest of the telling numbers tucked inside the news.1 teamWith New England’s loss to Denver 30-24 in overtime Sunday, the Carolina Panthers are the NFL’s only remaining undefeated team following (most of) Week 12. We still give the Patriots the highest chance of winning the Super Bowl. [ESPN]20 seasonsLos Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant announced — in a poem! — that this NBA season, his 20th, will be his last. Bryant has been injured often recently, playing in just 41 of 164 games the last two seasons. [The New York Times]32 countriesJapan is trying to figure out how to handle a population that is increasingly elderly, with a huge bearing on the rest of the world: By 2050, 32 countries will have a population with a greater share of senior citizens than Japan does today, according to the United Nations. [The Wall Street Journal]41 percentThe probability Oklahoma will win college football’s national title, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model. The Sooners won the Big 12 championship over weekend. [FiveThirtyEight]$100,000Estimate for how much the department store Kohl’s will pay to use a cover of the Beatles song “All Together Now” in a national ad campaign of 15- to 30-second spots. The band’s iconic oeuvre is far from cheap, and securing song rights can take months of negotiation. But by using a cover artist for the song instead of the original recording, the advertising firm Kohl’s hired was able to roughly halve the cost. [The New York Times]200,000 viewsA convicted Czech pirate — to be more specific here, the kind of pirate who uploads movies or software he isn’t supposed to, not the kind of pirate who attacks boats and pillages — got software firms to agree not to sue him if he made an anti-piracy video and got 200,000 views for it within two months. The man succeeded in this endeavor, with more than 400,000 views so far, and now does not have to pay a lot of money to very angry multinational corporations. [BBC]3.38 millionU.S. opening week sales for Adele’s new album, “25,” the first to sell more than 3 million copies in a week in Nielsen’s history of monitoring sales. [Billboard]4.8 millionA breach has compromised 4.8 million records of Hong Kong-based toy company VTech, potentially exposing customer account data to hackers. User passwords were encrypted using a crappy MD5 hash, and what’s worse, hackers can use the data to easily make connections between accounts for parents and their children. It all sounds like catnip for a fear-mongering local news broadcast near you. [Troy Hunt via Ars Technica]$20 billionClimate change talks begin in Paris today, with some early news bolstering confidence in a potential agreement: The U.S. and 18 other countries will double investment in clean energy to $20 billion, according to the White House. The measure has the support of technology and business leaders as well. [The Guardian]??? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ???We’re going for an unconventional digit today. Here is typically where we’d discuss the sales numbers coming out of Black Friday, and how [good/bad] they are and the [exciting/deleterious] effect that might have on holiday spending, which in turn could have an [unspeakable/Lovecraftian] impact on overall consumer spending. But my colleague Ben Casselman set me straight: All the numbers you’re reading about Black Friday sales are unreliable and often useless. [FiveThirtyEight]If you haven’t already, you really need to sign up for the Significant Digits newsletter — be the first to learn about the numbers behind the news.
Ahead of Wednesday night’s Chicago Blackhawks-Los Angeles Kings game, I wrote about the “hottest” goalies of the Stanley Cup playoffs to date. No. 1 on the list? Chicago’s Corey Crawford, who promptly had the worst game of his playoff career, allowing five goals on 30 shots in the Kings’ runaway victory.It probably seems self-serving not to merely chalk this up to a bad prediction (granted, I did note that “today’s hot goalie isn’t guaranteed to be a success tomorrow”) or even a jinx of some kind. But it might be more instructive if taken as an example of a few interesting philosophical concepts in sports.First, there’s the impact of randomness on performance. Goaltending statistics are incredibly noisy in the small sample of a game. It takes 3,000 shots faced for save percentage to be half-skill and half-luck; Crawford faced 1/100th of that amount in Game 2. Even the best prediction isn’t going to be very accurate in a given game when it goes up against that kind of volatility.Also, because of the outsize role of random chance, a goaltender’s numbers are a good illustration for the gulf between predictive and “retrodictive” metrics, which can also be framed as a tug-of-war between ability and value. A statistic that places its emphasis on value will reward past performance, regardless of whether that performance was driven by luck or skill. So when a mediocre goalie steals a game against a good team, he gets full credit for that performance in a retrodictive metric such as our “hotness” statistic — even if he’s unlikely to repeat it. But a predictive stat will not give extra credit for a fluky performance, beyond using the evidence from that performance to (slightly) update its expectations.Finally, some superstitious FiveThirtyEight readers may think I “stat-cursed” Crawford by anointing him the hottest goaltender of the 2014 postseason. There’s a long tradition of athletes and teams sustaining declines after being singled out for achievements. But in these kinds of cases, regression to the mean is the more likely culprit. To appear on the cover of the “Madden NFL” video game or Sports Illustrated, a player had to play at an incredibly high level, and was usually aided by luck (which includes staying healthy). When that luck dissipates, it seems there’s a curse attached to the accolade.This is more true for the hottest goalie list, because I set up that metric to find players who were playing above a level that could be explained by their previous performance baselines and even the shooting skill of the opposing team. Whatever’s left over is, by definition, going to be fueled largely by luck, and therefore primed for regression.In fairness to Blackhawks fans, regression rarely comes as abruptly (or as far in the opposite direction) as it did for Crawford on Wednesday night. Predictors who forecasted Crawford to allow five goals (if there were any) would have been engaging in the gambler’s fallacy, thinking he was “due” for bad luck to offset his previous fortune. In reality, luck is random. And the interplay between luck and skill is what makes sports interesting, especially in the high-stakes setting of the NHL’s conference finals.
Sophomore midfielder Emily Mongno (28) runs with the ball during a game against Detroit on Feb. 13 at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center. OSU won 22-8.Credit: Courtesy of OSUThe No. 16 Ohio State women’s lacrosse team broke even over the weekend in California, returning to Columbus with a record of 2-1 after the two-game split.The Buckeyes meant business when they set foot in Berkeley, California, edging out California (0-1) 16-15 in overtime on Friday night. OSU started off strong, scoring the match’s first four goals en route to building a 9-6 lead at halftime. The Buckeyes found their rhythm early and were able to maintain it through the beginning of the second half, scoring four of the first five goals.The game was back-and-forth, but OSU led 15-13 with five minutes left, giving the team some confidence that a win was near. The Buckeyes couldn’t celebrate too soon, though, as the Golden Bears responded with back-to-back goals to tie the score, forcing the game into overtime. Senior attackman Cian Dabrowski has been dubbed a team leader and she showed why a mere 30 seconds into the extra time, scoring the game-winning goal. Dabrowski scored four goals on the day, and senior attackman Rainey Hodgson added four goals and two assists as she continued to make an impact in the attacking end. Sophomore midfielder Molly Wood dominated the game with a career-high 13 draw controls for OSU, as well as two goals and two assists. The Buckeyes led draw controls 21-13 and finished the day with 33 shots.On Sunday, the outcome wasn’t as fortunate for OSU, as the team dropped 18-7 on the road at No. 14 Stanford (2-1). The Cardinal threatened to make it ugly early by opening up a 6-0 lead just seven minutes into the game, but the Buckeyes responded quickly with three straight goals. This made it a close 6-3 score with 14 minutes left in the first.Stanford added two more goals to OSU’s one, making it a 9-4 Cardinal lead at halftime. Stanford continued its offensive dominance as it scored the first two goals of the second half, before Wood and Dabrowski scored back-to-back goals to make it 13-6 with 20 minutes on the clock. There wasn’t much action left for the duration of the game, as the scored ended at 18-7 in favor of the Cardinal.Senior goalkeeper Katie Frederick had her first loss of the season, making four saves with nine goals against. Abigail Wise, sophomore goalkeeper, made two saves in 38 minutes of relief work.The Buckeye co-captain duo of Dabrowski and Hodgson combined for five goals and one assist on the day. Despite the offensive efforts, the Cardinal still managed to hold a 28-15 shot advantage.Defensively, the Buckeyes forced eight Stanford turnovers to OSU’s five, although it wasn’t enough to secure a win. The Scarlet and Gray are next set to return home to face Duquesne on Feb. 28 in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center at 2 p.m.
OSU junior attacker Austin Shanks (11) during a game against Michigan on April 16 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorSenior attacker Carter Brown’s three goals on Sunday were not enough, as the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team (6-8, 1-3) lost to No. 5 Maryland (11-2, 4-0) by a score 10-8 in College Park, Maryland.Brown continued his hot play of late, scoring three goals to follow up his two-goal, two-assist performance against Michigan on April 16 in the Showdown in the Shoe.The loss is part of a roller-coaster season for OSU in which the Buckeyes won five of their first six games, lost six in a row, then won in front of more than 20,000 fans against Michigan last week.Maryland started the day’s scoring when junior attacker Matt Rambo recorded his first of two goals to give the Terrapins the early lead.OSU responded when senior midfielder Jarret Hassfeld scored his first of two goals in the game and first of the season to even up the score.After a second goal by Maryland, OSU went on a 4-1 run, capped by a goal from sophomore midfielder Trevor Hodgins to take a 5-3 lead early in the second quarter.Maryland flipped the switch, though, and rattled off seven straight goals to take a 10-5 lead in the third quarter. Senior midfielder Bryan Cole and junior midfielder Colin Heacock scored two goals apiece during the run. The second goal was Heacock’s 30th on the season, a team-high for Maryland.OSU went on a 3-0 run to cut the lead to 10-8, the third being Brown’s third goal of the game with 9:14 left in the fourth quarter. However, senior goalie Kyle Bernlohr and the Maryland defense clamped down in the time remaining, sealing in the Maryland win.Bernlohr had six saves on the day, while OSU redshirt junior goalie Tom Carey had eight.The Buckeyes won 11 of 19 faceoffs in the game, but nine OSU turnovers led to a time-of-possession advantage for the Terrapins.The loss brings the Scarlet and Gray’s record to 1-3 in the Big Ten going into their final game of the season against Rutgers.Penn State also has a 1-3 record but holds the tiebreaker over the Buckeyes because of the Nittany Lions’ head-to-head win in April.With only one spot left up for grabs in the Big Ten tournament, OSU will need a win against Rutgers and Penn State to lose against Michigan on Saturday.The game against Rutgers is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Columbus.
OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett (16) takes questions during media day on Dec. 29. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorSCOTTSDALE, Ariz – On Thursday morning, both the No. 3 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) and the No. 2 Clemson Tigers (12-1) answered questions from the media during the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl Media Day in Glendale, Arizona. While both sides have been hard at work studying and preparing to face each other on Saturday evening, Thursday gave players a chance to express their thoughts on their opponents and talk about what they have been doing in practice all week long.During OSU’s portion of media days, Deshaun Watson’s name was a popular one. While the defensive lineman for the Buckeyes talked about limiting his ability to escape the pocket and run, the secondary for OSU seemed ready to force the junior quarterback to beat them over the top.OSU coach Urban Meyer, who highly recruited Watson, is well aware of his big play ability, and has been working tirelessly with his team to ensure the second-team All-Atlantic Coastal Conference quarterback is off balance.“Well, I think when you’re quarterback plays comfortable, that’s a problem,” Meyer said. “So you have to confuse the quarterback and that’s either pressures or … If we play cover one, which is man free which we’ve played a lot, or quarters, which we play a lot, we have no chance. But if you change things up and make a guy like that uncomfortable, you’ve got a shot.”Watson has thrown for 3,914 yards and a career best 37 touchdowns. However, all his success tossing the ball has come at a price, as the Heisman runner-up has thrown 15 interceptions this season.Although the picks did not prevent Clemson from reaching the College Football Playoff, many OSU team members said they will be ready to take advantage of any miscues. However, OSU redshirt sophomore cornerback Marshon Lattimore said it’s more about the Buckeyes creating the turnovers themselves.“We’re always hungry for interceptions, but we still have to get out there and play and force turnovers,” he said. “We can’t rely on him to create turnovers.”The Buckeyes have more to worry about than just Watson, as junior running back Wayne Gallman has racked up just over 1,000 yards on the ground this season. While last season was a much more productive year in terms of yards for the Georgia native, this year has been all about scoring.Gallman has 15 rushing touchdowns so far in 2016. According to OSU redshirt freshman defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones, being patient to stop Gallman is a priority for the Silver Bullets.“You learn to be disciplined, you learn how to stay in our gap, stay in our lane,” Jones said. “Not jump out of your gap because once you jump out of your gap, other gaps open up and you have free running lanes.”The defensive unit for Clemson has had its fair share of downs this season, including giving up 42 points to the University of Pittsburgh. Regardless of the occasional shortcoming, senior linebacker Ben Boulware and the rest of the Tigers defense have harassed opposing quarterbacks throughout the season.Clemson’s defense, which allows just 19.9 points per game on average, has gotten to the quarterback a whopping 46 times this year, trailing only Florida State and Boston College in total sacks. On average, the Tigers picked up 3.4 sacks per game.The disruptive presence of the Clemson defense is something that the Buckeyes expressed they were very aware of Thursday. According to OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett, however, picking out what to attack is not as easy as it seems with coach Dabo Swinney’s team.“They like to switch it up,” he said. “I feel like it’s one of the type of teams or kind of mindsets that they don’t really want you to catch a beat on what they’re trying to do. Their game plans kind of switch each and every game depending on whatever offense they’re going against.”After OSU finished, it remained clear that the Buckeyes would be looking to play a near perfect game to advance to the national championship. Even then, it remains a question of just how perfect they need to be in order to win.
Two nail-biters were enough for Ohio State. The Buckeyes won the Big Ten title Sunday, 90-61, in blowout fashion over Minnesota and asserted themselves as the Big Ten’s best team. It was something the Buckeyes have waited months to prove. “I think it was just about us coming together and playing as a team,” David Lighty said. “No one being bigger than the team or bigger than one another. That was the one thing that helped us win the championship.”Evan Turner finished off a tournament that may have solidified his standing as the country’s top player. After his last-minute heroics against Michigan and a never-say-die mentality in double overtime against Illinois, he finished the tournament in a business-like fashion. His 31 points, six assists and 11 rebounds capped his weekend and earned him the tournament MVP.“When the time called for it, I just tried to step up and make plays,” Turner said. “Coach [Thad] Matta really told me take over when I could, and stuff like that. Like I said, this is tournament ball; it’s all about play-makers.“It’s not too much about half-court offense or anything. You just try and make plays, and the team who’s in attack mode and the team that’s trying to win is going to win,” he said.The Buckeyes spent the second half of both games prior to Sunday holding on for dear life as Michigan and Illinois pushed them to the limit. On Sunday, however, they finally showed why they were the No. 1 seed in the tournament. OSU immediately came out and began pushing Minnesota to play at a faster pace. The Buckeyes went up 11 before the Gophers responded and pushed the game back to a two-point margin at 42-40. Both Michigan and Illinois made runs to get back in the game this weekend when the Buckeyes pushed their lead to a wide margin, but the Buckeyes weren’t going to make that mistake again. Instead they began to play as if their tournament life was on the line. Ohio State didn’t wait for Minnesota to respond, and pushed its slim, four-point lead into the 20s by making 12 straight shots, and it didn’t miss from the field for eight minutes and 22 seconds. “I think as a unit we got hot, we made our run,” Turner said. “Once we got a couple points ahead, we didn’t want to let them back, just kept trying to hit shots and trying to get defensive stops.”The Buckeyes used a 20-0 run on Saturday to come back from a double-digit deficit against Illinois, and they used a similar 20-5 run to eliminate Minnesota. Turner made big plays, but it was the eldest member of Ohio State, junior David Lighty, who took over during the spurt and scored nine points. He finished with 20 points and seven rebounds. “He’s been here before,” William Buford said of Lighty. “I’ve never been here before, so I just feed off of David. What he tells me to do, I do. He’s a good team player and he’s a good leader.”It looked as if Ohio State was determined to finish off the Gophers without a buzzer-beater or overtime. In a matter of minutes, the game was over. Matta said at halftime he didn’t even touch the clipboard but instead knew from that point on it was more about mind and heart than anything else. It looks like the Buckeyes finally knew it too.
On Sept. 24, Stacey Gordon took her place alongside the greatest athletes to ever don scarlet and gray — she was inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame, at the ripe age of 28. “It’s the most rewarding feeling you can possibly get,” Gordon said of being inducted. “You don’t expect to get it at that age, if at all.” Gordon played volleyball for the Buckeyes from 2001 to 2004 and in the process re-wrote OSU’s record book with the most prolific career in OSU women’s volleyball history. Gordon was a four-time All-American for the Buckeyes, the only one in the history of the program. She was named 2001 National Freshman of the Year and 2002 and 2004 Big Ten Player of the Year. She was twice named Ohio State Female Athlete of the Year in 2003 and 2005. Following her senior year in 2004, Gordon was named AVCA Co-National Player of the Year, as well as Asics/Volleyball Monthly Player of the Year. Gordon holds records at OSU for kills, kills per game, digs, points and points per game. She is the all-time Big Ten leader and third in NCAA history with 2,978 kills. Not only was Gordon a dominant force on the court, she excelled in the classroom too. She was a four-time Ohio State Scholar-Athlete and three-time Academic All-Big Ten. To say that Gordon’s career as a volleyball player at OSU was successful might be a bit of an understatement, but her career might have taken a different turn had she stuck with her first love, hockey. Gordon grew up in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. “Sports in Canada compared to the United States are different,” Gordon said. “I grew up in a sports family, everyone played hockey.” She played hockey for 10 years, starting at age 4, but decided her best bet to make it to the next level athletically was either through volleyball or basketball. Gordon chose volleyball and soon began to excel on the court. “I tried it out and stuck with it ever since,” she said. A very highly touted recruit out of high school, Gordon knew she wanted to attend a Big Ten school because of the league’s volleyball prestige. OSU seemed to be a perfect home for Gordon. “I knew what OSU had to offer in terms of the volleyball program,” Gordon said. “It just felt like a fit for me — the people, the team.” After her first trip to campus, Gordon knew there was something special about OSU. “The pride of being a Buckeye, people don’t really realize until they get to campus what that feeling is,” Gordon said. She easily adjusted to the college game, earning All-America honors as a freshman and playing a key role for a team that reached the Sweet 16. “You are a freshman, you don’t even know what awards they give out,” Gordon said of being named All-American her first year on campus. “It’s a great feeling, but a little overwhelming at the same time.” Heading into her sophomore season, Gordon did not let her accomplishments from the year before go to her head. “I wasn’t thinking of what kind of awards can I get this year,” Gordon said. “I never really changed my demeanor.” The team began to look to Gordon as one of the leaders going into her second season. “Her leadership was more the ‘do as I do’ type of leadership,” former OSU women’s volleyball coach Jim Stone said. “People, when they see someone play like that, they want to be part of it.” Gordon led the Buckeyes to a 21-11 and 13th place finish in the final AP women’s volleyball poll that year. Her junior year at OSU didn’t go as well as the first two, however, as the team finished 11-17 with a disappointing ninth place in the Big Ten. Gordon found herself facing an unfamiliar opponent: adversity. “It’s one of the hardest things I have been a part of,” Gordon said. “It probably couldn’t get any worse.” Gordon could tell early on that her final year at OSU would not end up like the previous one. “I knew we had a lot of potential,” Gordon said. “Players were different, attitudes were different.” She was right. The 2004 team was the most successful that Gordon would play on in her four years as a Buckeye. The team went 30-4, reaching the Elite 8, and Gordon was named to her fourth All-American team. Team accomplishments always came above individual accomplishments for the always-modest Gordon. “We were two points away from a Final Four and I would give every award back to have that,” she said. “It was going into the tournament as a team. I look at that as the best part of my senior year.” Though Gordon might not admit it, athletes of her caliber don’t come around very often. “She has athletic skill that a lot of kids don’t have,” Stone said. “(Football coach) Jim Tressel made the comment at a banquet that she was the best athlete on campus, regardless of sport.” Gordon’s success on the court may also be contributed to her competitive personality. “She did everything 100 mph,” Stone said. “How she was on the court, she was that exact same person off the court.” Walking off the court her last time as a Buckeye was tough for Gordon. “It was my last game, it was my best game I played in four years,” Gordon said. “It was a sad time taking the jersey off knowing you are never going to put it on again.” Once her playing days at OSU were over, Gordon jumped right in to professional volleyball. The life of a pro volleyball player is not always easy, especially because most pro leagues are overseas. “The life of a pro volleyball player, you learn to live on your own,” Gordon said. She has played in Turkey, Spain and Puerto Rico in the last five years and often has to learn a whole new language when moving from team to team. “The only thing you know going into a new country is the volleyball,” Gordon said. Though the experience takes some getting used to, Gordon enjoys taking her talents overseas at the professional level. “Not a lot of people can say that they have traveled to 10, 11, 12 different countries,” Gordon said. “It’s a whole new life and a whole new experience in itself.” In the middle of last season, Gordon got an unexpected phone call from OSU, telling her she was part of this year’s induction class for the Ohio State Athletic Hall of Fame. “I was in Puerto Rico playing at the time, I was pretty shocked,” Gordon said. “It was pretty cool.” Gordon returned back to Columbus for the weekend of the OSU vs. Eastern Michigan University football game, where the inductees were given a banquet Friday and recognized on the field at halftime of the game Saturday. She made a point to visit the Hall of Fame, but it still didn’t sink in that she was part of such an elite group. “I felt like a tourist, I was taking pictures,” Gordon said. Being introduced at halftime was just icing on the cake for Gordon. “It was cool, especially to be recognized in that atmosphere,” Gordon said. “That is the best way they could do it, I think.” Today, Gordon is preparing for a different type of challenge: a wedding. “My plans right now are wedding plans,” Gordon said. “Creating a new life with my future husband. It’s a pretty cool outlook; I’m pretty excited about it.” But it won’t be long until Gordon continues doing what she loves: playing volleyball. Gordon leads a busy life, but she takes it all in stride. “Life hands you all kinds of different curves,” Gordon said. “You have to challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone.” Gordon’s career may lead her all over the world, but she never forgets her time as a Buckeye. “The laughs, the memories, the victories you share with your teammates,” Gordon said. “I miss those girls more than anything. I miss playing for OSU more than anything.”
The United States men’s national soccer team is returning to its Columbus fortress at just the right time. Crew Stadium, home of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, is a ground that has seen the U.S. national team go undefeated in eight previous games. The Stars and Stripes have returned to Central Ohio for a vital 2014 World Cup qualifying match against Jamaica on Tuesday. The American squad boasts a lifetime 5-0-3 record at Crew Stadium, as well as a 12-1 overall score line in those games. Tuesday’s contest isn’t just a chance for the Americans to remain undefeated – it’s a shot to climb back into a safe position in the race to qualify for Brazil. Some American players on the team believe the team’s World Cup qualifying chances are hanging in the balance, while one veteran of the Crew and the U.S. national team says the match is important, but not an end-all, be-all. Either way, most agree that Crew Stadium is home, and it’s good to be back. Former U.S. star Brian McBride called Crew Stadium home for eight years as a member of Columbus’ MLS franchise before playing for English Premier League team Fulham. Even after McBride left the States for England, the stadium still served as a kind of home during games with America’s national team. In a Monday phone interview with The Lantern, McBride said that Crew Stadium is indeed the national team’s home. “The results have been great there,” McBride said. “For me, personally, being able to be a part of the Crew for eight years and then when we started playing qualifiers there, it was a double bonus. Especially when I went to England, I got to go back and see old friends and fans and fan base that Columbus has.” Current members of the U.S. player pool agree with McBride, who scored 30 goals in 96 appearances for the national team. Following the team’s training session at Crew Stadium on Sunday, American midfielder Clint Dempsey, now a member of English Premier League club Tottenham Hotspur, said the trip to Columbus is much needed. “The venue (in Columbus) has always been good to us in years past,” Dempsey said. “It’s one of the first soccer-specific stadiums that was built. There’s always been good support out here and, you know, for some reason we always seem to do well, so I think it’s a good match.” The U.S. needs exactly that on Tuesday – a good match. America is locked in a second-place tie with Guatemala in its four-team World Cup qualifying group from which only the top two teams can advance. Jamaica, nicknamed the “Reggae Boyz,” is sitting atop the group with seven points to America’s four points. Jamaica took the lead in the group after its 2-1 win against the Americans Friday in Kingston, Jamaica, but now the stage has switched to Columbus. U.S. midfielder Jozy Altidore, a member of Dutch club AZ Alkmaar, said his team knows it has to win on Tuesday and Columbus is just the place to get the job done. “I think everybody feels that a little bit. If we don’t win on Tuesday, it gets pretty scary,” Altidore said. “I think everybody understands what’s at stake.” Fortunately for U.S. fans, Altidore is no stranger to national-team success in Ohio’s capital city. The memory of Altidore’s first national team game at Crew Stadium is still strong today, he said. It was on Feb. 11, 2009, that 23,776 fans packed the stadium for a 2-0 American victory against Mexico. Altidore came on as a substitute in the 83rd minute of the game and was on the field for a goal by U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley that put the Americans up, 2-0, in stoppage time. With memories of that victory in tow, Altidore echoed the sentiments of Dempsey and McBride, saying, “Columbus is great.” “It’s good to come home,” he said, “so hopefully we can put in a good effort.” U.S. defender and captain Carlos Bocanegra, a member of Spanish club Racing Santander, captained the American team and helped defend the team’s Columbus fortress during the February 2009 game. Bocanegra said he hopes the team is able to succeed again on the pitch that has been so good to U.S. Soccer. “Here, we’ve had great performances and it seems to be kind of a home field advantage for us,” Bocanegra said. “We enjoy playing here and we’re confident playing here.” Tuesday’s match is scheduled to kick off at 8 p.m.
Senior pole vaulter Madison Roberts joined the Ohio State pole vaulting team in 2014 as a non-recommended walk-on. Credit: Ethan Clewell | Lantern ReporterWith four athletes already on the Ohio State track and field team, volunteer assistant coach Richard Ebin thought his pole-vaulting unit was set heading into the 2014 season.However, Madison Roberts felt like she could contribute.Joining the team as a walk-on, Roberts was not even on Ohio State’s radar. “I didn’t know of Madison Roberts,” Ebin said. “I didn’t know who she was. Nobody did.” Now, reflecting on her collegiate career as a senior, Roberts feels like she raised the bar for the women’s pole vault team. This started with her record-breaking performance in the 2017 Big Ten championship. Finishing third in the women’s pole vault, Roberts vaulted 13 feet, 4 1/2 inches to set an Ohio State record. Ebin said this was a moment he would never forget. “When she came off the pit, you could see it in her eyes,” Ebin said. “It wasn’t on the pit, it wasn’t in the air or anything like that, but coming off the pit at 4.03 is a moment I will remember forever.”Roberts improved from 10 feet, 2 inches to 13 feet, 4 1/2 inches.Ebin said he had never seen anyone make such a drastic improvement in such a short amount of time. Entering college, Roberts had always been a competitor. As a student at Iroquois High School in Elma, New York, Roberts was a three-time state qualifier in the pole vault and also a three-year captain on the soccer team.As a multisport athlete, Roberts wanted that to continue while she was in college. “Out of high school, I have always been an athlete and I have always done other sports as well, so I didn’t really want to give that up yet,” Roberts said.Despite being a walk-on, Roberts was allowed to try out by Ebin. She made sure to make the most of her opportunity.“In the very first time she ran with a pole, I knew she could do it,” Ebin said. “I saw a person that was fast, able to run with a pole and put a pole up in the air.”For Roberts, making the team was just the start of her journey as a Buckeye. In her first collegiate meet, Roberts was nervous about making a negative first impression. “The first meet, having Ohio State on my chest obviously is scary,” Roberts said. “I didn’t want to be the walk-on who didn’t prove herself or didn’t meet the standards that they were looking for, so I was nervous.”It took her three attempts to clear 10 feet, 2 inches. At the next meet, she improved by more than a foot and set her season high at 11 feet, 3 3/4 inches.Throughout her Ohio State career, Roberts continued to work one-on-one with Ebin to improve. Ebin said during that time, Roberts continued to push herself and improve. “When you are alone and there isn’t anybody pushing you and there isn’t anybody driving you — it takes a very special person to keep going and get better,” Ebin said.At the first meet of her sophomore season, Roberts reached her personal record of 11 feet, 4 inches. By the end of that year, she had improved that record by another foot.Even with the improvement on the track, Roberts isn’t just a pole vaulter. The two-time academic All-Big Ten has been the embodiment of the term student-athlete. “There are three types of opportunities at Ohio State whether it’s academic, athletic or social, and usually something suffers,” Ebin said. “[Roberts] is the only person I have that has excelled at all of those.”
Former Ohio State tennis player Bryan Koniecko speaks to the media prior to being inducted into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame at the Ohio Union on Sept. 7, 2018 Credit: Colin Gay | Sports EditorThe Ohio State Athletics inducted 10 members into its Hall of Fame Friday, including former three-time All American linebacker James Laurinaitis. Laurinaitis is joined by Richard Bruggeman (men’s track), Cassie Dickerson (women’s soccer), Greg Drown (rifle), Linda Haussner (field hockey), Ray Hupp (men’s track), Bryan Koniecko (men’s tennis), Mike Pucillo (wrestling), Jerry Welsh (men’s hockey) and Brandon Wynn (men’s gymnastics). Through 2017, the Hall of Fame has inducted 427 different athletes, coaches and administrators. Despite his decorated career at Ohio State, as one of eight three-time All Americans in school history and one of three players in the history of the Big Ten conference to win Defensive Player of the Year twice, Laurinaitis was still shocked he was inducted. “It was extremely humbling when you think about all of the athletes that have been through here,” Laurinaitis said. “You can go through the football guys and just be impressed, but when you think about all of athletics, to be included in that Hall is what humbles me the most.” Coming back to the Ohio State campus to be honored as the 123rd member of Ohio State football to be inducted, Laurinaitis said he remembers the brotherhood that he built with his teammates, saying that being a former Ohio State football player is something that bonds players from different eras. For Dickerson, she did not leave Ohio State. After her three years with the Buckeyes from 2008-10, being named as a three-time captain in those years, she came back this season as a volunteer assistant coach and the director of player development. Dickerson said even though she has continued to build relationships with the athletes, allowing her to relive what she went through in college, it is still strange to be honored for her time as a collegiate player. “It’s weird because you don’t think about it after a certain amount of time and you don’t really talk about the things you accomplished,” Dickerson said. “It’s more of the fun stories that you and your teammates had or the miserable times you went through together.” A five-time All American at Ohio State, Koniecko helped lead Ohio State to four regular season conference and tournament titles. Being awarded the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2006, he was a back-to-back Big Ten Player of the Year winner in 2008 and 2009. Koniecko’s time at Ohio State, under head coach Ty Tucker, allowed him to get into collegiate coaching. He was the associate head coach for the Ohio State women’s tennis team from 2012-14 and is currently the head coach at UCF. Koniecko believes it was a goal of his to be honored at Ohio State, but not because of his own success. “I guess the first thing I think of is I needed a lot of help from a lot of people for this to happen,” Koniecko said. “I’m just happy that I get to hold the torch for players that are as deserving to be here because we all kind of did it together.” That same feeling is what drove Laurinaitis at Ohio State. When accepting this award, he said he wants to recognize the people that helped mold him into the player he was. “What’s uncomfortable for me is going up there alone. You wish you could bring your whole roster up there with you because a lot of what drove me as a player was the fear of failing the other guys,” Laurinaitis said. “It was the fear of, not only failing them, but I always wanted to be a leader, I always wanted to be a guy that showed the way and do all that. So I was like, gosh, if you make a mistake on film, that’s just going to knock your credibility and that fear drove me.”The 10 members of the 2018 Hall of Fame class will be honored at halftime of the Ohio State football game against Rutgers on Saturday.