After Jesse King scored five goals in Ohio State’s third straight win, it would be easy to say he was the story behind the Buckeyes’ success.
However, the success of the OSU men’s lacrosse team goes beyond the senior midfielder.
“Our team starts from the top,” senior defenseman Evan Mulchrone said after OSU’s 15-5 win over Dartmouth on Saturday. “From the top down, our guys played their roles … That’s what makes a team.
“Defensively, we want to hold them under eight, and as an offense, we want to get above 10. And if we hit that mark it’ll be a ‘W’ for us.”
While King has scored 10 goals in the past two games, the Buckeyes (3-1) piled on 10 more goals from eight different players against Dartmouth (0-1).
OSU demonstrated its offensive depth as freshman attackman Hank Bethke, freshman midfielder Trevor Hodgins and sophomore midfielder Brian Ward each scored their first collegiate goals.
“The younger guys make us so much better,” King said. “If we’re doing our jobs right as older guys, that means they get to get out there and play … they’re working just as hard as we are if not even harder, so when they get rewarded, it puts smiles on all our faces.”
The smiles were noticeable as several injured Buckeyes returned to the lineup on Saturday, including sophomore midfielder Jake Withers. Withers won 8-of-9 faceoffs Saturday, assisting seniors Spencer Matches and Christopher May to bring the team’s overall faceoff victories to 15-of-23 against Dartmouth.
“We’ve got a lot of great guys who can score, but they can’t score if they don’t have the ball,” May said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to get the ball to our team … I’m just trying to do my piece while everyone else does theirs.”
OSU coach Nick Myers said a complete team effort transformed an unsettling first half that consisted of lost ground balls and early attacks from the Big Green, into prideful third and fourth quarters, ending in victory for the Buckeyes.
“We were certainly tested,” Myers said. “Dartmouth has some really athletic kids … they did a great job in the early offense testing us there. We really settled in and started playing our game.”
OSU pulled ahead early when goals from King and junior attackman Ryan Hunter put the Buckeyes up 2-0, but Dartmouth wasted no time, scoring two goals in two minutes to make it 2-2.
OSU senior midfielder Turner Evans put the ball in the net with six minutes left in the first quarter, but another quick response from Dartmouth again tied the score heading into the second.
“Right away we noticed they were trying to push transition, unsettle our defense,” Mulchrone said. “We knew they were attacking that early, so it’s something we knew we wanted to change up going into the second half.”
That change was apparent after halftime as OSU pulled away.
In the opening quarters, Dartmouth lead the ground ball contest 17-14, but the Buckeyes rallied during halftime, dominating the Big Green, 21-7, in ground balls during the second half, which was an essential keystone for victory, Mulchrone said.
“It all starts with ground balls for us and that rings true today,” he said. “Buckeye defense is about having a voice and picking up ground balls.”
During the final 45 minutes of the game, OSU only allowed two goals from Dartmouth, but its revamped second half did not solely include defensive improvements.
King credited the offense for regrouping at the half as well.
“We just took a deep breath, came out in the second half and started running our offense,” King said. “You always look for the best shot … but a big thing for us is just not settling on offense.”
In the first half, a stacked Dartmouth defense often double or triple-teamed the senior captain, but Myers said he spoke with King at halftime and encouraged him to relax into his game.
“Jesse has seen just about every defense out there, and they were doing a good job of sending a lot of guys his way,” Myers said. “But he took a deep breath and really came out at the third quarter letting the game come to him a bit more.”
OSU seeks to continue its winning streak against Bellarmine in Louisville, Ky., on Friday. The game is set to start at 7:30 p.m.