Soccer: Hausfeld injured, Niebuhr stars as Ohio beats Ball State

Megan Niebuhr was sitting on the bench watching her teammates compete on the field and waiting for a chance to enter the game. For most of this season, she has played as a defensive midfielder. On her club team in high school, she played primarily as a center back, but Ohio coach Aaron Rodgers usually plays senior Gabby Hausfeld and junior Grace Campbell at the two center back spots.

In the 16th minute of its game against Ball State, the Cardinals were looking to score the first goal. A pass made its way into the box, and there was a collision involving Ohio goalkeeper Nicole Amari and Hausfeld. Hausfeld remained on the field. There was no way she was going to get back up. With Rodgers realizing Hausfeld was not going to come back into the game, he called on Niebuhr sooner than he would’ve liked.

Niebuhr came into the game fully prepared even though she hasn’t played much at center back this season. She has practiced at center back, but a game situation is much different. Although she was prepared, she looked a little bit nervous and played conservatively at first, but Campbell communicated with Niebuhr frequently to make sure that she was comfortable on the field.

In the second half, Niebuhr provided her mark on the offensive side of the field.

Niebuhr’s goal with four minutes gone in the second half gave the Bobcats a 1-0 victory against the Cardinals at Chessa Field on Friday night.

“She’s an awesome center back,” Rodgers said. “We recruited her to play that role, and we know she’ll play well in the future. I feel for Gabby (Hausfeld), but that’s why we try to recruit players who can play right away.”

On 49 minutes, right back Tonya Frasik took a corner kick from the left side of the field, and her delivery found the feet of Carly Manso, who had taken a corner kick from the right side of the field right before Frasik’s corner. Manso passed the ball to Niebuhr, whose left-footed shot beat goalkeeper Brooke Dennis and went into the bottom right corner of the net.

“She was amazing for us,” sophomore Lexi Milesky said. “She’s in the same situation I was in last season. I played a lot of forward before I came here, but I had to play in the midfield. She’s had to play a lot of midfield even though she’s a defender, but I was excited for her to get an opportunity to play.”

Before Niebuhr gave Ohio (6-7, 3-2 MAC) the lead, she had a chance to score a goal earlier in the match. After Frasik’s first corner kick from the left side was cleared away by the Ball State (6-4-2, 2-3 MAC) defense, Frasik crossed the ball from the left side again, and her cross found the head of Niebuhr, but her attempt was saved by Dennis.

Late in the game, Ball State had a legitimate chance to tie the game, but Nicole Pembleton’s header was saved by Amari.

Ohio still has at least six more MAC games to play, and despite the injury to Hausfeld, Rodgers has a replacement in Niebuhr and is pleased with where the team currently stands.

“We’re right where I was hoping we’d be,” he said. “I knew we weren’t going to win all 11 games, but our goal is to finish higher than we have in a long time.”

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