Senior midfielder Jesse King (19) carries the ball during a game against Denver on March14 in Columbus. OSU won. 13-11. Credit: Molly Tavoletti / Lantern reporter

Senior midfielder Jesse King (19) carries the ball during a game against Denver on March14 in Columbus. OSU won. 13-11.
Credit: Molly Tavoletti / Lantern reporter

During its three-game series over spring break, the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team went 2-1 and broke into the Inside Lacrosse top 20 at No. 15, but immediately returned to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center for what the players call “truth day.”

The truth is the team is not sugarcoating its 9-0 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame last Saturday, but rather using it as motivation heading into the Buckeyes’ first-ever Big Ten game Sunday against Penn State, coach Nick Myers said.

“There’s a lot we can grow from,” Myers said. “People will make more of the shutout than it was. And obviously it’s something you don’t want to see, but the defense played its tails off. We were 3-0 at the half against a team that averages 14-15 goals a game. So we don’t make anything more of it than what it is.”

While OSU’s defense held it together against the Fighting Irish, its offense failed to capitalize on five extra-man opportunities. But junior midfielder Kacy Kapinos said the team does not play the blame game, even after a shutout loss.

“You can’t really blame one side or the other, it was a team loss,” he said. “We’re a very tight group, and we never point fingers when something goes wrong. If someone makes a mistake, we’re there for them.”

A mere seven days before the loss against Notre Dame, OSU defeated then-No. 3 Denver, 13-11, in a victory Myers called “one of the greatest top-five wins in program history.” Myers said his team “played tired” against Notre Dame, but the physical and mental exhaustion is expected and something to push through.

“At this point in the year, no one is 100 percent fresh or feels perfect, but your ability to stick together and continue to grind it out, that’s what separates good teams from great teams,” he said. “I’m not sure any team played two top-five opponents with a top-20 team in between in seven days, but we want to challenge our young men.”

And for the players, that challenge continued this week at practice, returning to the drawing board in preparation for conference play this weekend in State College, Pa.

Though the team prepares similarly each week, its loss to Notre Dame marked the conclusion of non-conference play. So with a conference tournament spot in its sights, OSU has added motivation heading into this week’s first-ever Big Ten matchup, Myers said.

“To be on the edge of history on Sunday is something that re-energizes you through the rest of the season,” Myers said. “For all of us, it’s wide open now. You kind of throw the records out the window … These are two very hungry teams trying to get that first league conference win.”

The Buckeyes recognize the challenges the Nittany Lions present, but attitude and preparation give them the confidence to bring home a win, senior midfielder and Dublin, Ohio, native Ryan Borcherding said.

“We’re the most positive team I’ve been on since I’ve been here and we prepare better than anyone,” he said. “We’re not gonna let anything from the season so far affect how we play against Penn State. Growing up in Columbus, just about every kid’s dream is to put on that Buckeye jersey, so to play in the first game in the Big Ten with this team, it’s a blessing.”

The game against the Nittany Lions is set for 3 p.m.