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OSU returns to the 'show'

It's by far the furthest East they have played this season, but that isn't a problem for the Oregon State women's soccer team.

The Beavers chartered a flight from Eugene and arrived in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday to prepare for today's first-round NCAA Tournament game against host and No. 11 Ohio State at 4:30 p.m. Pacific.

"It was a neat experience chartering a flight for women's soccer," said sophomore Ashley Folsom, a 2008 North Medford graduate.

Folsom, who went by Ashley Chambers in high school before recently marrying Rob Folsom, also a former North Medford standout and current member of the OSU baseball team, has started 12 games this year for the Beavers at the midfielder position.

Folsom has company with Oregon State from the Rogue Valley in fellow sophomore Ashley Seal, a Hidden Valley graduate who has five goals this season.

Both have been part of an exciting ride with the Beavers, who learned Monday night that they received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. It will be Oregon State's first appearance in the postseason tournament since 1994 and just the second time in school history.

"We're pretty proud of what we've done so far this year," second-year coach Linus Rhode said. "To be back in the playoffs and going to the 'show' finally. It's been a lot of hard work."

The Beavers (12-7-1), who won seven consecutive nonconference games after losing the season opener, finished tied for sixth in the Pac-10 with a school-record four conference wins. Their 12 victories is the fourth-most in school history and the most since 14 wins in 1995.

That earned them one of the final at-large berths in the postseason against the host Buckeyes, who finished second in the Big Ten Conference with a 14-3-2 overall record and a program-best 7-2-1 in conference.

Ohio State has also won six of its last eight games and eight consecutive home contests.

"We're probably not the favored team," Rhode said with sarcasm. "We've played teams this year already that have been on that level or higher. It's nothing to be overwhelmed by."

Oregon State faced numerous ranked teams, including several in the top 10. The Beavers knocked off a couple of ranked squads, including a 2-1 victory against then-No. 9 USC on Oct. 23.

"When we play well, we're keeping the ball, playing good-possession soccer," Rhode said. "And defensively, we are working extremely hard for each other. When we do those things, then we're very hard to beat."

The Beavers also have posted a 12-0-1 record when they score at least one goal, which is exactly how many goals the Buckeyes have allowed in the last five games combined. In fact, Ohio State has never given up more than two goals in a game this season and has allowed just 10 goals in its 19 games.

Oregon State, which has given up 18 goals in its 20 games this season, has only allowed three goals in the past four games.

"I think with the teams that we've played, it will be a pretty evenly matched game and anybody can win," said Folsom, a two-time, first-team all-Southwest Conference performer with North Medford. "It's just another game and we're out here to win."

The winner advances to play the winner of today's champion of the Florida-Illinois State game on Sunday at 10 a.m. Pacific in the second round.

Reach reporter Shawn Miller at 776-4469, or e-mail smiller@mailtribune.com

Oregon State sophomore Ashley Folsom, left, started 12 games this season for the Beavers - Photo courtesy of Oregon State University