The Ohio State men’s lacrosse team opened up Big Ten play with another loss, falling to Penn State 6-5 to extend its losing streak to five games.
In what turned out to be a defensive battle between the two clubs, a late goal by Penn State in the final two minutes denied the Buckeyes their first opportunity for a win since March 6.
OSU coach Nick Myers said he was proud of his team’s effort in the second half. However, he said it “stings” not getting the desired end result.
The Scarlet and Gray’s five-game losing streak has included three games that have been decided by only one goal.
“Unfortunately, it seems like a reoccurring theme for us — just coming up short,” Myers said.
Penn State started off the day’s scoring when junior midfielder Dan Craig snuck past an OSU defender and threw a strike into the right side of the net to give his team an early 1-0 lead in the first quarter.
OSU junior attacker Austin Shanks countered with his own goal later in the quarter to tie the score.
A late first-quarter goal by Penn State freshman attacker Nick Spillane and a pair of goals in the second quarter brought the score to 4-1 in favor of the Nittany Lions at the end of the half.
Penn State’s defense caused the Buckeye offense to turn the ball over many times in the half and limited OSU to tough scoring opportunities. OSU senior defender and co-captain Robby Haus said both the defensive and offensive units were disappointed with their performances in the first half.
“I think we had lapses this game where they got a couple that we know we want back. I’m sure there’s some offensive possessions that we left empty,” Haus said.
OSU came out in the second half employing a 3-3 zone defense, a switch from its normal man-to-man defensive strategy.
“We had an injury defensively that shortened our lineup a bit, so I think that gave us the best chance for success based on our personnel,” Myers said. “It gave us a little bit of momentum, and we stayed with it.”
The move paid off, as OSU went on a 4-1 scoring run to tie the game at five with 6:53 left in the fourth quarter. Sophomore attacker Colin Chell scored in the third, and assisted on two more to help the Buckeyes pull even.
But that tie was soon to be broken, as Penn State redshirt junior midfielder Matt Florence scored with 1:41 left in the fourth quarter. A late offensive push by the Buckeyes failed to result in a game-tying goal, leading to the fifth straight loss.
One positive Myers said he took out of the game was the play of redshirt junior goalie Tom Carey, who saved 13 shots in the losing effort.
“I thought the play of our goalie was some of the best I’ve ever seen out of him,” Myers said. “It’s hard to walk away when you get an effort like that and not get the result.”
Haus also lauded the efforts of his goalie and said his stellar play in Sunday’s game has just been the norm for him this season.
“Every game he’s been making stops that he should be making, and he’s been making some that he shouldn’t,” Haus said. “We can’t thank him enough as a defense.”
Chell returned from injury this week after missing the previous four games. Myers said his presence on offense was big, but he stressed the need for more output on that side of the ball.
“Putting in the time and effort on our shooting and making sure we do a better job with our shooting repetitions, that’s going to be a focus moving forward for sure,” Myers said. “We’ve just got to find a better rhythm down on the offensive end. Five goals isn’t going to win you many games.”
With hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship seemingly out of reach, OSU will have to perform well in order to earn one of four spots in the Big Ten tournament. The winner of the tournament receives an automatic bid into the end-of-year national tournament.
“We’ve got to play with a lot of urgency here now, going into the next few games,” Myers said.
Haus said the team will look at this game as it prepares for a tough road matchup against Johns Hopkins next Saturday.
“I think we’re just going to learn from this, and we’ll get back to work on Monday and have a good week of practice,” Haus said.
The game in Baltimore against ninth-ranked Johns Hopkins is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.