Ohio State goalie has room to improve

Redshirt-senior goalkeeper Alex Ivanov scans the field during a game against Northwestern on Sept. 14 at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. OSU won, 2-0, to open Big Ten play. Credit: Courtesy of OSU athleticsThe Ohio State men’s soccer team is off to a solid start for the 2014 season, and a lot of the credit can be directed toward the man between the posts, but that doesn’t mean he can’t improve.Alex Ivanov, in his second season as full-time starting goalkeeper and fifth year overall at OSU, has only allowed four shots to get past him in six games so far.“I’ve been successful just by coming to practice every day and trying to learn something new, and just always coming with a positive attitude, and just enjoying the game as much as you can, while learning at the same time,” the co-captain said.The Strongsville, Ohio, native has posted 11 shutouts in his career. Eight of those came last season, but he is on pace to surpass that this season.However, coach John Bluem said he does not feel that Ivanov has quite lived up to the lofty expectations put on him after his breakout redshirt-junior campaign.“I think he has been solid and safe,” Bluem said. “I don’t think he’s necessarily as good as he was a year ago in all phases of the game, but I think that our guys are definitely confident with him behind them.”Bluem said Ivanov has fallen off this year in his game management by doing things like slowing down the game and taking his time.Ivanov’s redshirt-junior season saw him finish fifth in the nation in saves with 110, sixth in save percentage at .880 and second in the country in saves per game, averaging 6.47.His performance on the field was a big factor in being one of 30 Division I candidates for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award this year, but he has excelled away from the pitch as well.Ivanov graduated last spring with a degree in electrical and computer engineering, compiling a GPA of 3.70. He is now pursuing a second degree in sports industry as a post-graduate independent study. He is a four-time OSU Scholar Athlete and was named to the Capital One third team Academic All-American list last season, making him the first Academic All-American in program history.“On and off the field, Alex leads by example,” Bluem said in a press release about the Senior CLASS Award nomination. “He is well-respected by his teammates and opponents and works hard at practice every day. He is the definition of what it means to be a Buckeye and this is a great recognition for him.”In the team’s game against Northwestern on Sept. 14, Ivanov collected his third shutout of the year — but didn’t make a save as his defense held the Wildcats without a shot on goal.“The defense in front of me has been phenomenal,” Ivanov said. “I mean, the last game there was not a single shot on goal, so obviously their performance is outstanding and they’re going to keep building on that. It’s going to be great going forward.”A major part of that defense has been junior defender Liam Doyle, a transfer from Cincinnati State Technical and Community College.“It’s just communication,” Doyle said. “This is another game together. We’re progressing and training every weekend. We’re just used to each other, and we’re solid as a unit, right from front to back.”Ivanov echoed Doyle’s feelings on the importance of defensive communication.“You just always want to be on the same page as (the defense),” Ivanov said. “Just make sure everything you do aligns with where they are as well, and when there’s good communication from us, there’s no mistakes.”Ivanov certainly feels that his half-decade at OSU has helped him grow and improve as a player.“Yeah, I’ve been here for a while,” Ivanov said with a chuckle. “So definitely I’ve had a lot of experience. I’ve seen a lot. I just keep learning. Every time I’m out here, I’m learning something new.“I’m still learning everything, from communication to goalkeeping fundamentals, just learning new ways of getting your feet behind the ball and new techniques you can work on and learn every day.”