With the preseason wrapping up and the regular season set to get underway, the No. 9 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team faces a stiff test right off the bat.
The Buckeyes are set to travel to Baltimore Sunday to take on No. 13 Johns Hopkins to start their season and ECAC title defense.
The Johns Hopkins Blue Jays are looking to start the 2014 season with a signature win after a year where they failed to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in 42 years, the longest active streak of any Division I team in any sport.
However, OSU coach Nick Myers said he knows traveling to Homewood Field is not an easy task, and the Buckeyes are going to have to be ready from the first faceoff.
“Our kids are going to go in there and know that there’s a great challenge that lies ahead,” Myers said. “For us, right now in February, we know there’s still a lot to work on … we’re hoping we can settle into the game and play 60 minutes of Buckeye lacrosse.”
The Blue Jays are returning one of the nation’s most prolific offenses — finishing tied for No. 14 for in the nation with 11.5 goals per game in 2013 — centered around junior attackman Wells Stanwick and senior attackman Brandon Benn.
Stanwick, a 2013 Honorable Mention USILA All-American, led Johns Hopkins in points last season with 47 while Benn led the Blue Jays in goals with 34.
OSU senior defenseman Joe Meurer said the key to containing the potent Blue Jays offense is sticking to the fundamentals.
“It’s just sticking to our keys … having a lot of good communication, good sliding and playing good off-ball defense,” Meurer said. “I think everything will fall into place for us.”
OSU features a balanced squad led by two preseason first-team All-Americans in Meurer and junior midfielder Jesse King. King is the Buckeyes’ leading returning scorer after totaling 55 points for the 2013 squad that won the ECAC tournament championship.
The Buckeyes’ preseason schedule leading up to Johns Hopkins consisted of three exhibition games against Hill Academy, Navy and Robert Morris. OSU went 2-1 in the three contests, with their only loss coming at the hands of Navy, 15-11, Jan. 25.
Meurer said the exhibition games were important for the Buckeyes to get time on the field against real opponents.
“It helps us identify a lot of our weaknesses and what we need to work on,” Meurer said. “We were playing really good talent in Navy and Robert Morris, so we definitely gained good experience from the games.”
Senior defenseman Darius Bowling said the key for the Buckeyes Sunday is to continue to play at the level they are capable of and not let Johns Hopkins control the game.
“I think it’s just playing within ourselves,” Bowling said. “We’ve got to stick to our scheme, trust each other, and trust what we’ve been doing all fall and through the preseason.”
Sophomore attackman Carter Brown, who missed all three exhibition games for an undisclosed reason, practiced this week for the Buckeyes and Myers is hopeful he is able to take the field Sunday.
“We liked seeing him on the practice field for the first time,” Myers said. “Right now, it’s a wait and see, but it’s certainly nice to have him back.”
Game time is set for Sunday at 11:30 a.m.