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Men’s lacrosse: Ohio State’s path to victory over Michigan starts with stout defense

Redshirt senior goalie Tom Carey attempts a save against Johns Hopkins on April 9 at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State defeated Johns Hopkins 13-8. Credit: Courtesy of OSU

The No. 9 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team has faced several elite scorers this season — a trend will continue Saturday morning in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Buckeyes will look to continue their hot streak on defense when they take on the Michigan Wolverines. While the Wolverines have struggled recently, they still possess an offensive unit capable of giving the Buckeye defense some concerns. The focal point of the concerns will be the prolific scorer, sophomore attacker Brent Noseworthy.

Noseworthy has been terrorizing opposing defenses this season with a team-high 33 goals through 11 games. He is averaging three goals per game, ranking him sixth in the NCAA. Similar to the effect OSU freshman attacker Tre LeClaire has on the Buckeyes, Noseworthy brings that go-to goal scorer presence around the cage in the offensive zone.

OSU has handled matchups with elite scorers successfully and contained them. Their strategy against No. 7 Penn State’s freshman attacker Mac O’Keefe limited him to just one goal. On the season, O’Keefe had been averaging 3.45 goals per game, good for second in the NCAA. While he tallied nine shots in the game, they limited his chances at getting high-quality shots.

This success helps create a mantra players like junior defenseman Erik Evans love to embrace when facing challenges like this.

“It’s why you come to a school like Ohio State, it’s to play the best competition possible,” he said. “When you see a guy who’s been having a great year it’s great for him, but it also gets you pumped up to shut him down.”

The Buckeye’ defense has derived confidence in itself from its play on the field as it has allowed just 7.5 goals per game, the fourth lowest in the NCAA. The players credit the defensive approach to trusting their teammates and executing their roles.

“We’re a good group and we have talent all around which helps take a lot of the pressure off of an individual,” Evans said. “I trust Matt Borges and Ben Randall to win their matchups. It allows me to focus more on my guy knowing I have guys behind me that I can trust to take care of their business.”

While there will be considerable focus on Noseworthy, the Buckeyes will have to be cautious not to forget that he has a strong supporting cast. Senior attacker Ian King provides another weapon that OSU will not be able to overlook. With 21 goals and 19 assists on the season, King might have opportunities at the net if the Buckeyes put too much focus on Noseworthy.

On the other hand, the Buckeyes are conscious to the fact that the entire Wolverine offense can strike at any time.

“We just have to stay within ourselves,” said OSU sophomore defenseman Matt Borges. “It’s about playing our game and playing good off-ball defense. It’s really just focusing on our game and playing as a unit of seven.”

Borges added that the defense must always stay aware of Noseworthy if Evans needs to leave his coverage to help another defender.

OSU will battle the Wolverines at Michigan Stadium prior to the football team’s spring game at 10:30 a.m. It will be the first morning game of the season for the Buckeyes.

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