After the No. 7 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team completed their 18-7 victory over Michigan, their attention immediately shifted to the game they have had circled on their schedule since the preseason.
The Buckeyes will be welcoming in the No. 2 Maryland Terrapins into Ohio Stadium for the last home game of the season. For a team like OSU, sending out a large, strong senior class on a high note is important for everyone within the program.
The implications are now elevated as the Buckeyes will be facing one of the toughest opponents on their schedule with a rich tradition of success.
The Buckeyes will have their hands full with a program that is a consistently elite program. Maryland has played in the previous two NCAA championship games and is second in the NCAA with 38 tournament appearances. The Terrapins have not missed an NCAA Tournament since 2002.
This game sets up OSU with a prime opportunity to make a statement, but they are keeping their focus on maximizing their quality of play.
“Right now we’re just focused on ourselves and we’re really chasing the best version of ourselves,” said Tom Carey, OSU’s redshirt senior goalie. “To come out of Saturday with a win, and we know we are capable of it, would be a big statement for us.”
Carey went on to reiterate that the team’s focus is to chase the best version of their team.
For the Buckeyes to prevail, they must limit another elite offense. While the Terrapins do not possess a highly-ranked goal scorer, the offense spreads out the attack evenly. There are six Terrapins with at least 15 goals on the season. As a team, Maryland ranks eighth in the NCAA, averaging 13.45 goals scored per game.
OSU’s defense, which ranks third in the NCAA in fewest goals allowed on average, will be challenged in this matchup and will have to be prepared for the opportunity in front of them.
“Their scorers are pretty distributed throughout their lineup and that’s something we’re aware of,” Carey said.
Redshirt senior midfielder Tyler Pfister added his insight and insists there will be no changes to the defensive strategy.
“For us, it’s coming back to the basics of what we know and we trust our guys,” said Pfister. “It’s not going out of what we’ve already done, but it’s building on where we’ve already been.”
Offensively, the Buckeyes need to build off of the momentum they gained while scoring 18 goals on Michigan last Saturday. The centerpiece, senior midfielder Jake Withers, is the starting point for OSU’s offensive attack. He ranks third in the NCAA with a 68 percent face-off win percentage. Gaining continuous ball possession will be an important key to controlling the game.
Withers’ ability to win face-offs and keep OSU in possession is crucial to offset Maryland’s ability to reach their scoring average.
“The fact that you can go out as an offense, play a possession, score and pretty much know you’re getting the ball back makes all the difference,” Pfister said. “Jake (Withers) is a complete difference maker.”
To add to the importance of this game, an OSU win would create a three-way tie for first place in the Big Ten Conference with the final weekend of the regular season remaining. It would set up for the possibility of the Buckeyes earning the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.
This reigns supreme in their goals for this weekend.
“I think it would mean the world to our guys (to get the No. 1 seed),” Pfister said. “We just want to go out there and play the best that we can, especially for our home crowd. But again, we’re really just trying to chase the best version of ourselves.”
This will be the second-straight game aired on national television for the Buckeyes. Opening face-off is set for Saturday at 2 p.m.