Rick Lewis took the lacrosse field in Piscataway, N.J., 29 years ago to lead the defense for Rutgers in the 1986 NCAA tournament. Now his son, Rick Lewis Jr., prepares to step onto that same field, as the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team looks to bring home a win this weekend in the Buckeyes’ final regular-season matchup of the inaugural Big Ten lacrosse season.
“I’ve always looked up to my dad,” Lewis Jr. said. “So it’ll be really special to have my last regular season game … where he played his first.”
Now a senior midfielder and captain for OSU, Lewis Jr. grew up with a lacrosse stick in his hand, receiving his first one from his dad’s friends at the hospital just hours after he was born. From there, his dad became his coach and the rest is history, Lewis Jr. said.
The midfielder grew up playing in Cumming, Ga., earning All-American honors at St. Pius X Catholic High School, and also spent time playing in leagues in New Jersey, making him no stranger to Rutgers territory.
“I know a lot of those guys,” Lewis Jr. said. “With the team in New Jersey, I was actually coached by my dad’s college roommate. I even lived at his house for the summer.”
And while his old summer coach might be supporting Rutgers this weekend, Lewis Jr. said his dad will be on OSU’s side.
“He’s rooting for the Buckeyes, definitely wearing scarlet and gray,” Lewis Jr. said.
For the Lewis family, Saturday’s matchup might be “a fun rivalry game,” but for OSU, the stakes are high to bring home a final conference win for the regular season. And while Rutgers has already lost its chance at an NCAA tournament berth, OSU coach Nick Myers said he expects the Scarlet Knights to be ready to win.
“These are two tough teams that are both hungry for a final Big Ten win,” Myers said. “It’ll be a battle.”
OSU is coming off its only home loss this season, a 10-9 overtime heartbreaker against Maryland on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The Terrapins locked up at least a share of the Big Ten title, and a win would have done the same for the Buckeyes. But instead of dwelling on the disappointment, the team used the loss as motivation through practices this week, Myers said.
“It was the closure we needed,” he said. “We looked at what we did well, and the situations throughout the game where we need to improve. We’re focused on how to be successful against a formidable team this weekend.”
Senior midfielder Christopher May said OSU focused on its efforts at the face-off X in particular, hoping to secure regular possession to kick-start the offense against Rutgers.
“Maryland had a super talented faceoff unit. They communicated well and were good at causing loose balls, so we took that as a learning experience,” May said. “Rutgers likes to create offense off the faceoff. We’re going to try to limit the transition and put ourselves in a better position to win this game.”
The loss against Maryland dropped OSU to No. 2 in the Big Ten. Even if the Terrapins lose against Johns Hopkins this weekend, the Buckeyes would share the No. 1 spot heading into the conference tournament, but would fall short because of the tiebreaker, as long as they win against Rutgers on Saturday.
“We come out every game (at) full speed. They’re a very dangerous team so we’re preparing and ready to go,” Lewis Jr. said. “We’re focused on playing a full 60 minutes. If we do that, we can play with anybody in the country.”
The game against Rutgers marks the end of the inaugural Big Ten regular season, one that, regardless of record, has been an honor for the team, Myers said.
“It’s been everything we could’ve hoped it would be,” he said.
Saturday’s game is set for noon in Piscataway, N.J.