More Saints Bounty Drama Player Admits To Lying About

Ex-Saint Anthony HargroveThe New Orleans Saints bounty program drama just will not end. It is a reality show gone bad (like most of them). In the latest episode, a report was released Tuesday that said one of the suspended players, Anthony Hargrove, now with Green Bay, said he was told to deny knowledge of such a system when interviewed by NFL investigators in 2010.Hargrove, according to the sworn statement acquired by the Associated Press, claimed the alleged order came from assistant coaches Joe Vitt and Gregg Williams. Williams has been suspended indefinitely for his role as the ring leader of the pay-for-injury program and Vitt is the interim head coach because Sean Payton was docked for the upcoming season as part of the NFL’s punishment. Meanwhile, Vitt will be benched for half half of the season.Mary Jo White, a former US Attorney hired by the NFL to review the investigation said that Hargrove’s statement “acknowledges the nature of the program and his participation in it, and, which is really the thrust of the declaration, that he was told to lie about it, and he did when he was asked about it in 2010 by the NFL investigators.”Vitt issued a vehement denial of Hargrove’s statement, saying, “At no time did I ever tell Anthony Hargrove to lie or deny the existence (of the alleged bounty program),” he told the The Times-Picayune newspaper. “He can say whatever he wants to say. It just didn’t happen.”Hargrove, now with the Green Bay Packers, was one of four members of the 2010 Saints suspended last in relation to the bounty investigation, and is slated to miss the first half of the regular season in 2012. In the NFL’s initial statement regarding the suspensions the league said “actively obstructed the league’s 2010 investigation into the program by being untruthful to investigators.”The statement has become a point of contention between the NFL Players Association and the NFL in the aftermath of the investigation, as the players begin their appeals process. The NFLPA maintains the position that while Hargrove states that he was told to lie, he has not admitted to lying to investigators. For the players, admitting to obstructing the NFL’s investigation would mean certain death for any chance at an appeal. read more



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Nationals Sign Rafael Soriano a Powerful Closer

Rafael Soriano, one of the most versatile closers in baseball, made the young and dangerous Washington Nationals more lethal by signing a two-year, $28-million contract with the reigning NL East champion.The agreement is pending a physical, according to the Associated Press.A source told AP that the deal contains a $14 million option for 2015 that would become guaranteed if Soriano reaches 120 games finished over 2013 and 2014 combined.Soriano, who turned 33 in December, had 42 saves last year with the New York Yankees, stepping in for injured Mariano Rivera. Soriano would join a Nationals bullpen that already includes Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard, who were among a group that closed games for them last season. Yahoo Sports first reported the Soriano-Nationals negotiations.A one-time All-Star, Soriano had a 2.26 ERA for the Yankees. In October, he declined a $14 million option for 2013, taking a $1.5 million buyout from the Yankees to enter free agency.As compensation for Soriano, Washington will lose its first-round draft pick in this year’s amateur draft, while the Yankees will gain an extra pick after the first round.The righty signed his old contract with the Yankees after saving a career-high 45 games for Tampa Bay in 2010. Soriano began his tenure in New York as a setup man, and ended up getting the bulk of his work in the seventh inning in 2011. But he wound up taking over as the closer after Rivera was hurt. read more



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The Brewers Pitcher Switcheroo May Be Coming Soon To A Game Near

The Milwaukee Brewers challenged traditional position labels all season. They’ve helped push bullpenning forward in the postseason. They’ve been the most forward-thinking club this October in part out of necessity, entering the playoffs with one of the weaker starting rotations in the field.But they’ve never been more radical than they were early in Wednesday afternoon’s Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell stepped out of the visiting dugout at Dodger Stadium and pulled left-handed Brewers starter Wade Miley after he had faced only one Los Angeles batter, the left-handed-hitting Cody Bellinger. Miley was replaced by right-hander Brandon Woodruff, who has limited right-handed batters to a .199 average over the course of his career. It was a premeditated plan, something of a surprise attack, against one of the heaviest platoon teams in the league. While the short-term results did not work in the Brewers’ favor — the Dodgers won 5-2 to take a 3-2 lead in the series — the strategy’s long-term ramifications could be far-reaching. In a season of openers and bullpenning, managers might now have to think more deeply about how much they want to bet on that day’s listed opposing starting pitcher working deep into the game. (Especially if that listed starting pitcher isn’t an ace.) Platoon-heavy lineups are more vulnerable. And game-planning might become more complicated as starting pitcher designations become increasingly less relevant.“Look, they’re trying to get matchups, we’re trying to get matchups,” Counsell said after the game. “They’re a very tough team to get matchups against.”When he takes the mound Friday as the Game 6 starter, Miley will become the first pitcher to start consecutive postseason games since 1930, according to MLB.“It’s not my job to question it. We’re trying to get to the World Series,” Miley told reporters. “This is the strategic side of it. I was in. Everybody bought in.”The Brewers have thrown 75⅔ innings this postseason, but only 26⅔ (35 percent) have been logged by their starting pitchers, distressing traditionalists. Milwaukee’s upside-down approach became extreme Wednesday.It is baseball tradition that teams announce their starting pitching assignments days in advance, even in the playoffs. (Imagine an NFL team announcing its personnel plans in advance of a game.) And because the starting pitcher is typically expected to absorb the lion’s share of innings in any particular game — well, at least until this season of “the opener” — opposing managers often try to create as many favorable matchups as possible within their lineup cards.What has become a common part of daily game-planning — trying to gain platoon advantage against a starting pitcher — might be in jeopardy, particularly in high-stakes games.Because of the angle pitches travel toward home plate and the way pitches break, batters tend to perform better against opposite-handed pitchers. That is, right-handed batters typically perform better against left-handed pitchers and vice versa, gaining what’s known as a platoon advantage. The Dodgers ranked ninth out of 30 Major League teams in platoon advantage, owning it in 57.3 percent of plate appearances.Consider how differently the Dodgers constructed their lineups in this series based on the handedness of the opposing starting pitcher. In Game 3 against right-handed Brewers starter Jhoulys Chacin, Dodger manager Dave Roberts penciled in Yasmani Grandal, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig as right-handed-pitching mashers. They were replaced in the lineup Wednesday against the left-handed Miley with David Freese, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes.The Dodgers were weaker this season facing left-handed pitching than right-handed pitching. They produced .324 on-base and .409 slugging marks against left-handed starters with 101 weighted runs created plus1Weighted runs created plus, or wRC+, adjusts for park and league scoring environments. A mark of 100 is league average. compared with .337 on-base and .458 slugging marks against righties with a 117 wRC+, which ranked second in the game .By starting a left-hander, the Brewers were able to keep some of the Dodgers’ strongest bats against right-handed pitchers out of the game temporarily — though Puig and Pederson eventually entered and combined for four at-bats.Moreover, against the left-handed Miley, the Dodgers featured a weaker defensive lineup. Max Muncy switched from first (where he most often plays) to second base to accommodate Freese at first, forcing Enrique Hernandez from second base to right field, where he replaced Puig. Puig is credited with 24 defensive runs saved over the past two years in right field, ranking second only to Boston’s Mookie Betts.The Dodgers responded with a number of in-game substitutions.In the top of the fourth, Pederson replaced Freese and went to left field. Bellinger switched from center to right, Muncy moved from second to first, and Taylor moved from left to center. Hernandez switched from right to second before he was replaced by a pinch-hitting Puig in the sixth inning, sending Bellinger back to center and Taylor to second. After Brian Dozier pinch-hit for Pederson in the seventh, he took over second, and Taylor went back to left field.Ultimately, Dodger lefty Clayton Kershaw pitched so well — one run allowed over seven innings — and the Dodgers did enough damage off Woodruff (three runs, two earned in 5⅓ innings) that the plan did not yield a win. But in a season of radical strategies, Milwaukee’s move could have a lasting impact. The Brewers are rethinking everything — and baseball just might follow.Check out our latest MLB predictions. read more



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Can The US Women Keep Up Their European Conquest

After the U.S. women’s national team ousted Spain, four days before perhaps the most anticipated match in the history of the Women’s World Cup, Megan Rapinoe told reporters that she hoped the upcoming quarterfinal against host France would be a “total s—show circus” of a spectacle. It would become one because Rapinoe made it one.Even before a 2-1 U.S. win Friday against France, the outspoken, expressive sparkplug of a midfielder had taken over this World Cup with her dominant play and her candid comments. She ensured that the U.S. outlasted its biggest threat in a game that lived up to the billing, complete with early fireworks, officiating controversy and late drama. Entering this tournament, the storyline was that the rest of the world — especially European powers — had made up ground against the U.S. since the Americans won in 2015. So far, that has played out, entering the U.S. semifinal Tuesday against England.The past two World Cup finals featured the U.S. and Japan, both of which knocked out European teams in the semifinals in 2011 and 2015. But this year, Italy, Sweden and Norway pulled upsets of China, Canada and Australia, respectively. The Netherlands beat Japan, France took down Brazil, and suddenly Europe produced a record seven of the eight quarterfinalists in this tournament. Not since 1995 had the continent managed even five of the final eight.England won’t make it easy on the U.S. The Three Lionesses are undefeated in this World Cup, with group-stage victories against Scotland, Japan and Argentina and 3-0 shutouts of Cameroon in the round of 16 and Norway in the quarterfinals. They, like many of the European squads, are fielding their strongest team of any Women’s World Cup at this tournament, according to ESPN’s Soccer Power Index. They failed to qualify for three of the first four World Cups but have reached at least the quarterfinals four straight times, the semifinals twice.A goals-per-game average of 2.2 puts England at second in this World Cup behind the U.S., and Phil Neville’s squad has conceded the fewest goals in the tournament (one). England ranks second in expected goals per 90 minutes with 2.46, in large part because it completes passes at a tournament-best clip of 80.9 percent.Still, FiveThirtyEight’s model gives the Americans a 67 percent chance of beating England and a 48 percent chance of repeating as champions. Their advantage comes from skilled talents like Rapinoe, whose finishing ability gave the U.S. an edge in an otherwise evenly matched game Friday.Europe’s improvements were never clearer than in Friday’s showdown. In fact, FiveThirtyEight contributor Michael Caley’s expected goal map after the game indicated that France had an advantage, with 1.3 expected goals to 1.0 for the Americans. The French peppered the U.S. with 20 shot attempts, but in the end, just five ended up on target. The Americans, meanwhile, placed eight of their 10 attempts on goal (and could have pulled ahead 3-0 if not for a close offside call against Crystal Dunn). They even lost the possession battle1France had 60 percent possession to 40 percent for the U.S. for the first time since a friendly against Spain in January, a span of 14 matches. But they are the defending champions for a reason, and they are moving on.The Americans have long embraced an attack-minded style of play built by the firepower on their front line. Youth development programs and college squads have stocked the national team with goal scorers, and the U.S. leads the World Cup in not just goals but chances (15.2) and expected goals (3.31) per 90 minutes. Rapinoe and Morgan are two of the four co-leaders for the Golden Boot award. After the U.S. lost in penalty kicks against Sweden in the 2016 Olympic quarterfinals, coach Jill Ellis doubled down on aggressiveness, switching to a 4-3-3 to move the team’s best finishers into scoring position. That leaves Rapinoe, Morgan and Tobin Heath up top, with 2015 star Carli Lloyd still available off the bench.The interest in offensive pressure trickles down the roster. On Ellis’s top lineup, both outside backs — Dunn and Kelley O’Hara — are former forwards and winners of college soccer’s player of the year award. Dunn plays mostly midfield outside of the national team, and O’Hara was as a forward at Stanford. Ellis called Dunn “the most versatile player I’ve ever coached,” which indicates the coach’s strategy: Find the best, most versatile players, and then put them in the right positions.Dunn, for instance, said she did not have much preparation at a new position before the World Cup. “I really got a phone call just saying, ‘Hey, you know, tomorrow’s game, I’d want you to step in and be an outside back. I’m trusting that you can do that and I know that you can,’” she told Forbes in May. “And you know, that’s all really that I needed.”Since then, she has become one of the team’s breakout players, proving critical Friday as she quelled the French attack and possessed the ball in the final minutes. “I try not to overthink,” Dunn told reporters after the group-stage finale against Sweden. “I just think of myself as a footballer. I’m just playing and trying to impact the game from a different angle of the field.” Ellis receives plenty of questions about deploying players out of position, but the result, so far, has been a terrifying arsenal of two center backs and eight players who are threats to score or create at any moment.Europe will keep coming for the U.S., as Spain showed in the round of 16. The Spaniards are young, improving and skilled with the ball. They played in just their second World Cup this year, and yet they advanced to the knockout stage and tested the U.S. before losing, 2-1. The Americans’ next test was even trickier, though the sharper team prevailed. “That is the most intense match I have ever been a part of,” Ellis told reporters afterward, and it certainly won’t be the last. read more



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Model Talk New Predictions For A Brave New NBA World

More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed FiveThirtyEight Since the NBA never stops, we’re proud to announce that our projection model for the 2019-2020 season has formally launched! Nate Silver joins to discuss how the model is assessing the NBA, which new metrics are still in development and what our model suggests about the upcoming season.The British Open begins on Thursday, with Northern Ireland’s own Rory McIlroy heading into the tournament as the favorite. We’ll break down his chances of success in this final installment of the PGA season.Our Rabbit Hole this week dives into the dramatic tiebreakers that decided the winners of both the 2019 Cricket World Cup and Wimbledon men’s final. Sticky wickets, indeed!What we’re looking at this week:Our 2019-2020 NBA model is up!Narratives to keep an eye on heading into the British Open.The unprecedented ending to the Cricket World Cup, explained. Embed Code read more



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The Chances The Philadelphia 76ers Losing Streak Will Reach 18 19 20

The Philadelphia 76ers are in a bit of a tailspin right now. Monday night’s loss, against a San Antonio Spurs team that was sitting both Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, was Philadelphia’s 17th straight to start the season, a franchise record and one shy of the all-time NBA record set by the New Jersey Nets in 2009. It’s been 230 days since the Sixers won a basketball game.Back in mid-November, our friends at the Harvard Sports Analysis Collective anticipated the Sixers’ woes and computed the odds of the team’s season-opening losing streak reaching various lengths. The chances of a 17-game streak back then were just 20 percent; Philadelphia still had to lose a few theoretically winnable games (of course, it obliged). Now we need to update the probabilities and ask just how long this Sixers skid might last.To do that, we’ll turn to FiveThirtyEight contributor Mike Beuoy’s betting-market-based team ratings, which use the gambling lines from every game to derive each team’s “generic points favored” (or the amount by which we’d expect the team to be favored against an average team). The final scoring margin in an NBA game can be approximated by a normal random variable with a mean of the Vegas line and a standard deviation of 12. So we can generate win probabilities for every game left on the Sixers’ schedule, then run 1,000 simulations of the rest of their season and determine the odds of their streak reaching a given number of losses.In our set of 1,000 simulations, Philadelphia’s losing streak has an average length of 20.7 games. The streak most commonly ends with a victory Wednesday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, a game in which the Sixers have a relatively high (by their standards) 30.9 percent probability of winning. In 60 percent of simulations, the streak ends sometime in the team’s next three games (the last of which is on Saturday night), and 91 percent of simulations see it end before Christmas.However, there is one dark simulation in which the Sixers lose 54 consecutive games before finally snapping their skid against the Orlando Magic on Feb. 22, 2015. For the sake of my home city, let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. read more



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For One Former AllStar The Hits Stopped Coming

Before the season, FanGraphs’ depth chart projections called for Davis to hit just .200 this year, largely by virtue of the awful .168 mark he posted last season — already tied for 34th-worst ever by a hitter in a season that qualified for the batting crown. After Davis’s 0-for-28 start in 2019, FanGraphs now see him with a .193 projected batting average over the rest of the season, implying that they believe his true batting-average talent to be 7 points below the Mendoza Line. (Most of the time, players with extremely low batting averages have substantially higher true talent but are also very unlucky.) Combining that with the at-bats he’s already banked, Davis projects to finish the season with a .181 average, which would once again give him one of the 75 or so worst batting-average seasons in MLB history — for the second time in as many years. (So much for reversion to the mean!)But the irony is that Davis is actually hitting the ball better this season, at least according to MLB’s Statcast tracking system. Davis’s average exit velocity of 91.3 miles per hour is higher than it was in 2016 (90.8), when he hit 38 home runs and was a meaningful contributor to plenty of Oriole victories. The big problem is that Davis strikes out so much that he doesn’t have a chance to make use of those powerful swings. So far this season, he has struck out in 47 percent of his plate appearances, more than double the MLB average rate. (Last year, he struck out 37 percent of the time.)Although Davis ought to have broken out of his hitless streak by now — Statcast reports an expected batting average of .119 for Davis this season, based on the quality of his batted balls — his strikeout totals have made it impossible for him to be a functional hitter. The only real question is how much longer the Orioles will continue to pencil him into the lineup and give him more chances to extend the now-record streak of ineffective hitting.Check out our latest MLB predictions.CORRECTION (April 9, 2019, 7 p.m.): A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized the hitless record tied by Craig Counsell. The record was 45 at-bats, not 45 games. You have to feel for Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis. Yes, Davis is being paid handsomely ($23 million) this season, and he’s had a solid 12-year major league career. But he currently finds himself mired in one of the most inglorious streaks in baseball history: zero hits in his past 49 at-bats, a new MLB record for futility.Davis broke the nearly 8-year-old mark set by former Dodgers infielder Eugenio Vélez, who went 0-for-46 over a 30-game span that lasted more than a calendar year. Vélez himself “surpassed” a record (45 at-bats) that Craig Counsell had tied earlier the same summer; the original 45-at-bat mark was set by Bill Bergen in 1909 and matched by Dave Campbell in 1973. Here’s a progression of all hitless streaks (among nonpitchers) that lasted 40 or more at-bats over time since 1908, the earliest season in Baseball-Reference.com’s game-level data:1This data set was compiled in part using Baseball-Reference’s Streak Finder but may be incomplete for streaks before 1973, when Baseball-Reference’s play-by-play data coverage begins. read more



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Despite losing two stars Ohio State wrestling maintains high expectations

OSU then-redshirt freshman Nathan Tomasello during a match against Minnesota on Feb. 6 at the Schottenstein Center. Credit: Lantern File PhotoFor the first time in four seasons, as the Ohio State wrestling team prepares to defend its title — the first national championship in program history — it will proceed without Logan Stieber.Life without the most decorated wrestler in OSU history has begun.Masterfully, Stieber was a force. Ending his career 119-3, winning his last 50 matches, he — along with coach Tom Ryan — took the wrestling program to unprecedented heights.The Buckeyes are now discovering why repeating as national champions in college athletics is so hard. OSU not only has to make up for the absence of Stieber’s scoring, but Kyle Snyder’s as well, as the second-year Buckeye plans to redshirt the upcoming season to train for the 2016 Summer Olympics.“It will be weird,” Snyder said. “It will be hard for me to come to practice and watch, and not be able to compete because I’m going to want to practice so bad. (There) will definitely be a bitter taste in my mouth.” Like Stieber, Snyder — the first collegiate wrestler to win the U.S. Open and make the World Team as a freshman — was dominant. With Snyder in the lineup, the Buckeyes were favored to repeat as national champions. Now sans Snyder, the Buckeyes are projected as a bubble team.“Obviously, preseason rankings, you go from No. 1 to No. 5 when you don’t have a Kyle Snyder in the lineup,” Ryan said. “It’s hard to make up the 25 points that you consider him getting in the national tournament, but we’ve got people who can.”Redshirt sophomores Nathan Tomasello and Bo Jordan can make up the points, and should. Tomasello is coming off a 33-4 season in which he captured the Big Ten and NCAA championship at 125 pounds.  For Jordan, he is pegged as InterMat’s top-ranked wrestler at 174 pounds and comes off a 2014 season in which he went 11-0 in dual meets and 9-0 against the Big Ten.The incoming freshman class should assist the team, as well. “We’ve got some really good freshmen coming in,” Jordan said. “A lot of guys that think right and train really hard and have the right mindset.”Freshman Kollin Moore, along with Myles Martin, have made early impressions. Former high school standouts, Moore went 51-0 in his senior year at Norwayne High School in Creston, Ohio, and Martin — a New Jersey native and FloWrestling’s No. 3 recruit — is expected to contribute early at 174 pounds behind Jordan.Satisfied with the young guys at the back end of the lineup, Ryan — who has coached four different student-athletes to eight national championships — refuses to settle. In fact, he’s raising expectations for the young Buckeyes. “Winning it one year is fantastic, but we’re here to stay,” Ryan said. “We want prolonged, sustained success, and I’m really confident that 10 years from now, people in the wrestling world and community will say, ‘Ohio State is a place where wrestling is alive and well.’”Repeating is OSU’s goal, but Ryan admits the loss of Snyder is a hurdle. Nevertheless, he thinks the team can vault it. “The goal is to win another championship. That hasn’t changed,” Ryan said. “It’s definitely more challenging without (Snyder), but what a story it will be, should it happen come March.”Confident and convinced, the Buckeyes — despite being without two All-Americans — are ready to defend their title.“We’re not going to have Logan and Snyder, but we’re still going to be good, and I know we can win a national title if everything happens right,” Jordan said.As Stieber and Snyder continue to train in Columbus for their personal careers, their presence will still be felt. On the mat, however, life without both has just begun. read more



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Womens volleyball Buckeyes still hungry as first half of season wraps up

Players of the Ohio State women’s volleyball team celebrate a team point during a game against Nebraska on Oct. 14. OSU lost, 3-1. Credit: Jenna Leinasars | Assistant News DirectorSo far this year, OSU has played 19 different teams, traveled to seven states, moved up and down the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association poll and seen the floor of St. John Arena only three times. OSU will be on the road yet again on Wednesday when they will battle the last remaining undefeated conference team, the No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State sits at 16-3 overall this season.  The 19th-ranked Buckeyes (13-7) will then come back to Columbus to take on No. 11 Michigan State (16-4) on Saturday. Last time around, the Spartans swept OSU in East Lansing, Michigan, 3-0 (Oct. 7). OSU is nearing the homestretch of its season and facing, arguably, its toughest string of games yet. OSU coach Geoff Carlston said his team is anything but sluggish.“This team is hungry,” he said. “As long as we keep working hard and stay together…that’s going to pay some dividends at the end.” The Buckeyes will have to be hungry for a win when they travel to Happy Valley to face the Nittany Lions. Penn State boasts the second-highest hitting percentage in the nation. The team is also on a 14-match win streak – their last loss came on Sept. 4 against Stanford.Carlston admitted the dominance of Penn State’s 6-foot-3 junior middle blocker Haleigh Washington, but also said he sees a lot of opportunities for OSU to capitalize on. “If we can do what we’re planning on doing, which is staying aggressive and play with poise,” he said. “I like a lot of the matchups.”The Buckeyes will have three days after the Penn State match to make adjustments before their second go-round with Michigan State. Members of OSU’s team say that the quick turnaround from the first time they faced the Spartans is actually to their advantage. “It’s a little bit fresher in our minds,” senior setter Abby Fesl said. “We’ll analyze what happened last time so that we can be a little bit more prepared and more able to execute.” Fesl is new to the OSU sisterhood this season after transferring from the University of North Florida. She also said her team makes weekly goals in order to stay motivated for its grinding schedule ahead.  “We break things down kind of weekend by weekend, game by game,” she said. “We set goals for ourselves and try to accomplish those, so when we do, it’s a really great feeling.” Fesl’s teammate, junior defensive specialist Kalisha Goree, added that at this midpoint in the season, she’s seen her team’s play change but it still hold true to its spirit. “We’re the same team in a lot of senses, like the personalities are still the same,” Goree said. “We’re still having fun together, but we are a different team because we’ve grown in a lot of different ways,” she said. Carlston also said that playing a constantly tough schedule is easier because of OSU’s investment into their team and themselves. “Our freshmen have kind of grown up before our eyes, but also our leadership has matured and really ‘bought in’ to the journey. It sounds cliché, but you need to,” he said. The Buckeyes’ journey will continue on Wednesday at 8 p.m. when they face Penn State. OSU will then take on Michigan State at St. John Arena at 6 p.m. on Saturday for the breast cancer awareness match. read more



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Crew goalkeeper making voice heard on field

In soccer, the goalkeeper is like a coach on the field. “Part of being a goalkeeper is barking out orders and you’ve got to be louder than everyone,” Columbus Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer said. He is in charge of directing the team’s defense and setting up its offense with goal kicks and throws. Hesmer, now in his fifth season as the Crew’s starting goalkeeper, is off to a hot start in 2011. Through 10 games, he is allowing an average of only one goal per contest and has had four shutouts, putting him on pace to break his career high of 10. “That’s a reflection of the team,” he said of his performance so far. “For the most part, we have done a terrific job of team-defending and making it difficult for other teams to break us down.” After losing several key players in the offseason, such as defender Frankie Hejduk and offensive maestro Guillermo Barros Schelotto, coach Robert Warzycha said Hesmer has increased his role as a team leader. “Losing so many players from last year, he is one of the guys that is leading the team,” Warzycha said. “His good performance is very important to us.” As successful as Hesmer and the Crew defense have been so far, the offense has struggled during the first two months of the season. Columbus is in last place in the MLS in scoring, averaging 0.8 goals per game. Strong performances by Hesmer and Co. during the first month and a half of the season, including a streak of four straight shutouts, made up for the team’s offensive struggles. The Crew recorded a seven-game streak without a loss from March 26 to May 7. At that point, the team had 13 points and was tied for fifth in the 18-team league. However, the team has gone goalless in its past two matches and has yet to win a game in May. It fell into a tie for 10th place in the league. Warzycha said there’s one thing his team needs to do: score goals. “It is as simple as that,” he said. The Crew will look to rebound against Chivas USA at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at home. read more



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