“Back to business” might be the best way to describe the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team’s mentality.
The Buckeyes (6-7, 1-2) are set to take on No. 5 Maryland (10-2, 3-0) on Sunday, the team’s first game since ending its six-game losing streak on Saturday against Michigan in the annual Showdown in the Shoe.
“It (had) been so long since we’ve won, and to have that feeling again was great,” said senior midfielder and co-captain Kacy Kapinos. “We had guys in the locker room saying, ‘Dang this is what it feels like to win again.’”
However, with the matchup against the fifth-ranked Terrapins on the horizon and still standing on the outside looking in when it comes to the Big Ten tournament, OSU coach Nick Myers said his team is focused on what’s ahead.
“When you get to this point in the year, every game is crucial. We understand the importance of these next two games, and, of course, to qualify for our league tournament,” he said. “But I think the focus still needs to be put on playing Buckeye lacrosse and the execution and efforts to get the result that you want.”
Kapinos added that the team is viewing it as a must-win.
“Going down to Byrd Stadium will be a great fight, and we’ve definitely got to get this W,” he said.
After losing two its first three games, Maryland comes into the game on a nine-game winning streak, including a 10-5 triumph over No. 7 Navy on Tuesday.
The Terrapins are 5-0 at home this season. However, Myers said his team is focusing on the matchup and not the venue.
“We don’t look too much into the numbers in terms of what their records are. We just know that they’re a great team,” Myers said. “We just got to be really clean and execute our game plan.”
Kapinos echoed his coach’s words, stressing the need for the Buckeyes to not be intimidated by the opponent.
“We have to be smart with the ball, time our slides well and make sure that we’re … possessing the ball and not afraid to play,” he said.
Reliance on seniors
Senior attacker Carter Brown was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after scoring two goals and adding two assists in Saturday’s win over Michigan.
Senior attacker Ryan Hunter made plays for the Buckeyes on offense, and senior defensemen Robby Haus and Chris Mahoney anchored a defense that only allowed seven goals on the day.
Myers said the veteran leadership his seniors provide are essential as the season comes to a close.
“I think any time you’re making a run at the end of the year and you’re coming down the home stretch, your seniors really set the tone,” Myers said.
The experience of these seniors could certainly help with the team’s confidence on Sunday. OSU defeated then-No. 6 Maryland last season in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals — a game that was at College Park, Maryland.
Emergence of offense
After failing to score double-digit goals in six straight games, the Buckeyes have posted two consecutive contests above the 10-goal mark.
Myers, however, said there is still a lot of room for improvement for his 44th-ranked offense.
“We’ve got to finish the ball better than we have,” Myers said. “We still think we haven’t shot the ball the way we’re capable of. So those are going to be important pieces.”
The offense will have to continue to step up as it faces a tough Maryland defense on Sunday.
The Terrapins’ defense ranks 10th in the nation, only allowing 7.75 goals per game. Additionally, Maryland senior goalie Kyle Bernlohr is 20th in the nation with a save percentage of 54.4 percent.
Kapinos said the gameplan Myers and assistant coach Brad Ross have put together will help the offense to be successful on Sunday.
“As long as (the offense) can execute the gameplan and make the fundamental plays, as far as putting the ball in each other’s sticks, throwing their hands when a double comes and making the smart plays, I feel like that’s when they’ll be successful,” Kapinos said.
The Scarlet and Gray are scheduled to finish their regular season next week when they take on Rutgers on April 30. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.