The Columbus Dispatch

‘Why not us?’

Confident Ohio State opens NCAA tournament at home

- Jacob Myers Columbus Dispatch

Following a 3-1 loss at home to then-no. 11 Minnesota on Nov. 4, Ohio State women’s volleyball setter Mac Podraza remembers asking when the team would start playing like it knew it could.

“We were like, OK, I’m tired of learning. I’m ready to start acting and ready to start doing, so when are we going to make that switch?” Podraza said. “I think this group has really started making that switch and we’re really started to act on those things we learned early on in the season.”

Two days later, Ohio State swept then-no. 9 Nebraska at home to start an eight-game winning streak that carried the Buckeyes (25-5, 15-5 Big Ten) to a No. 9 national seed in the NCAA tournament and has given them the opportunit­y to host the first two rounds, beginning Friday night at the Covelli Center against Howard at 7 p.m. on ESPN+.

In 52 MLS appearance­s, Zelarayan has scored 20 goals and added 16 assists. This season, he led the Crew with 12 goals and seven assists in 2,626 minutes in 32 appearance­s (28 starts). He recently broke the club record for most free-kick goals in a season with four.

Zelarayan signed a three-year deal with a fourth-year option with the Crew prior to the 2020 season. According to the players' union salary database, Zelarayan's base salary of $1,620,000 was second on the team and 30th in Major League Soccer. His guaranteed salary of $1,985,000 was 28th in MLS in 2021.

Though his new salary is currently unknown, it's likely much higher.

Crew president and general manager Tim Bezbatchen­ko said after the season that Zelarayan had "overperfor­med” in his first two seasons with the Crew, meaning it was time to align Zelarayan's talent with a pay raise. The club also recognizes Zelarayan as a player who can bring more fans to Lower.com Field.

“It's important in the global game that the contracts reflect what they do for your club,” Bezbatchen­ko said last month. “He creates moments that are worth the price of admission, maybe more.”

Since the Crew acquired Zelarayan from Liga MX club Tigres UANL for an $8 million transfer fee, he has put together two productive seasons and has shown his ability to dominate the opposition.

Zelarayan was named MLS Newcomer of the Year in 2020 before he won MLS Cup MVP with two goals and an assist in the final against Seattle.

With their core in place, the Crew will look for Zelarayan to lead the team to contend for another MLS Cup in 2022. jmyers@dispatch.com @_jcmyers

 ?? NICOLAS GALINDO/THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH ?? Ohio State libero Kylie Murr said the Buckeyes “want to show everyone what we’re made of.” The Buckeyes are 25-5 and the No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament.
NICOLAS GALINDO/THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Ohio State libero Kylie Murr said the Buckeyes “want to show everyone what we’re made of.” The Buckeyes are 25-5 and the No. 9 seed in the NCAA tournament.
 ?? ?? Ohio State vs. Howard
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Covelli Center
Watch: ESPN+
Ohio State vs. Howard When: 7 p.m. Friday Where: Covelli Center Watch: ESPN+

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