Ron Miles / Lantern photographer
For the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team, it’s all about taking it one game at a time.
Cliché as it might seem, with a schedule that includes defending national champion Virginia, and multiple other teams in the Nike/Inside Lacrosse Top 20 Poll, coach Nick Myers and his team said they have to.
“I think for these guys, they understand,” Myers said. “We try to really make it about us.”
But make no mistake about it — the Buckeyes want to win a championship.
Senior captain defenseman Joe Bonanni said it’s important to strike a balance between the two, though.
“Obviously championships are always the ultimate goal for the team, but we like to take it week to week, focus on our opponent at hand,” Bonanni said.
Junior attackman Logan Schuss, who was OSU’s first true freshman honorable mention All-American in 2010, said that while the expectation is to make the national tournament, they need to take it one game at a time.
“We’re looking at to win the conference, right now. We don’t want to look anywhere past that,” he said. “You don’t want to count your chickens before they’re hatched.”
OSU, who finished 2011 8-8 and 3-3 in the Eastern College Athletic Conference, open up the 2012 season against Detroit Thursday at 7 p.m. in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
The Buckeyes were voted fourth out of eight teams in the 2012 ECAC preseason poll behind Denver, Loyola and Fairfield.
Myers said one of the greatest strengths of this team is the leadership of the upperclassmen.
“I think this is a more experienced group that we’ve had than the last two years,” he said. “I think that’s something we’re going to rely on.”
OSU returns 26 total letter winners, including six seniors and nine juniors.
The Buckeyes will rely on a senior-laden defense led by Bonanni, Keenan Ochwat, and redshirt senior Matt Kawamato, who last season was the ECAC Defensive Player of the Year and an honorable mention All-American.
Sophomore goalie Greg Dutton, who started 15 games last season, will look to build on a productive freshman season during which he saved nearly 52 percent of shots taken against him.
Myers and Schuss agreed that their defense will often anchor the team.
“I think we’re going to need to ride them early, you know, while the offense kind of develops that chemistry,” Myers said.
Offensively, as Schuss goes, so does OSU. The All-ECAC First-Team junior had 32 goals and 20 assists in 2011 and said everyone is a threat on the Buckeye offense.
“We’re young so we’re fast and we’re going to be able to put the ball in the back of the net,” he said.
Along with Schuss, OSU’s offensive scheme will likely feature junior midfielder Dominique Alexander and sophomore attackman Tyler Frederick.
Schuss also said throughout the offseason, the Buckeyes worked on improving their face-off winning percentage, which was only about 48 percent last season.
“Our faceoff was probably one of our weaker spots, we’re looking to get above 50,” he said.
The more they can control the ball, the better the chance OSU’s attackmen have to score.
Compared to last season, Bonanni said the Buckeyes have improved their attention to detail.
“Small things that sometimes, where you’re in a tight game, if you’re not communicating, doing the small things, it can cost you in the end,” he said. “So we tried to tighten that up and did a pretty job doing that.”
Myers said this is a team that understands its identity coming into the season and the level that they need to play in order to be successful.
“It’s really developing that mold, that Buckeye lacrosse … how we want to play the game, the intensity, the energy, the enthusiasm that we want to bring,” he said. “I think the men have a really clear understanding of that.”
Perhaps most importantly, though, Bonanni said the team’s energy is what might separate it from its competition.
“We’re a team that sticks together, we feed off one another,” he said. “We’re a tough team.”