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Dishing out superlatives for Ohio State teams

Then-junior Kyle Snyder lifts Penn State’s Nick Nevills for a takedown on Feb. 3, 2017 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 32-12. Credit: Nicholas McWilliams | Former Sports Editor

Nearly every year, the Ohio State athletics program sends several teams out to compete for national championships. Just as often, it seems those teams come home with those titles.

Last season, both the men’s volleyball team and synchronized swimming team proved to be the best in their respective sport, and each secured a championship.

However, with so many teams around campus, it can be challenging for students to know which teams to keep an eye on throughout the year. So The Lantern created a list of eight superlatives that match Ohio State teams to help students know which to follow in 2017-18.

The juggernaut: Synchronized Swimming

No school has dominated the sport of synchronized swimming over its history quite like the Buckeyes. The sport has existed since 1977, when it was hosted by the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women until it was taken over by the NCAA in 1983. And over that 40-year stretch, Ohio State has come away with 30 national championships, followed by Stanford, which has won eight.

That trend continued in 2017 when the Buckeyes won the national title again — their 30th — with 100 points over Stanford’s 88 points in the overall team standings. The only match the Buckeyes were outscored in was the Trio Finals, where they lost to Stanford by 0.5 (84.1667 to 83.6667).

The Scarlet and Gray will lose Solo Finals champion Emma Baranski, and Elizabeth Davidson, who was Baranski’s partner on the Duo Finals, but two members of the Trio Finals group will be returning (seniors Alyssa Hoying and Monica Velazquez-Stiak). Eleven members from last season’s national championship team might be leaving, but there is nothing to indicate the Buckeyes won’t be title contenders again in 2018.

Team at its peak: Women’s Basketball

The Buckeyes return four of their top five scorers, including two-time conference player of the year senior guard Kelsey Mitchell. But in her three years at Ohio State, her team has failed to advance past the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament despite being seeded No. 3 (in 2016) and No. 5 twice (in 2015 and 2017)

Ohio State then-redshirt junior Linnae Harper takes the ball up the court against Purdue in a Big Ten tournament semifinal game in Indianapolis. Credit: Ashley Nelson | Station Manager

This upcoming season will be her final opportunity to advance far in the tournament, and it might be her team’s last chance for a couple of seasons. The Buckeyes have just nine players on the roster and five will be seniors, including four projected starters. To make matters worse, two promising freshmen — forward Tori McCoy and guard Kiara Lewis — decided to transfer away from Ohio State in the spring. The Buckeyes do not have any incoming freshman or transfers.

Mitchell, a ball-dominant, fast-break-happy guard, will be complemented by forward Stephanie Mavunga (11.4 points, 10.8 rebounds per game last season) and guard Sierra Calhoun (9.5 points per game, 38.6 percent 3-point shooter last season) this season.

Team on the rebound: Men’s Basketball

Ohio State endured its worst season under the guidance of Thad Matta in 2016-17, finishing with a 17-15 record. But with Chris Holtmann now taking the reigns of the team after he took Butler to the Sweet 16, things are looking up for the Buckeyes.

Not only will the Buckeyes be bringing in a new head coach, but they also are bringing in three four-star recruits: forwards Kaleb Wesson and Kyle Young and guard Musa Jallow. They also will return a healthy redshirt junior forward Keita Bates-Diop, who played in just nine games for the Scarlet and Gray a season ago.

And though the team saw Trevor Thompson, Jaquan Lyle and Marc Loving depart after the end of the 2016-17 season, the team’s leading scorer from a year ago, senior forward Jae’Sean Tate, will be returning, as will the team’s second best 3-point shooter, redshirt senior guard Kam Williams.

Youngest team: Baseball

The Ohio State baseball team lost five seniors and a junior at the end of the 2017 season, but the team will be retaining a promising young core of players, including its two leading hitters from a season ago, outfielder Dominic Canzone and infielder Conner Pohl. It is expected that the starting rotation will feature just one senior, and the field will be comprise mostly of sophomores and juniors, with only three seniors on the offensive side of the team.

Several of Ohio’s top recruits will join the team as freshmen, including No. 8 catcher Dillon Dingler (Massillon Jackson), No. 15 pitcher Alex Theis (New Riegel) and No. 26 outfielder Jake Ruby (Bishop Hartley).

But there might be no bigger addition to the team than southpaw Seth Lonsway. Not only was Lonsway ranked as the top recruit in Ohio by Perfect Game, but he appeared on MLB Pipeline’s top 200 draft prospects as the 148th-best player. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 19th round of the MLB Draft with the 557th overall pick, but opted not to sign.

Team on the rise: Women’s Lacrosse

Last season, Ohio State’s women’s lacrosse team endured an uncharacteristically subpar year, finishing 6-11. Since coach Alexis Venechanos arrived in Columbus seven years ago, the Buckeyes had only finished below .500 once. But there is reason for optimism.

Ohio State then-freshman midfielder Liza Hernandez looks to pass in the offensive zone against Stanford on Feb. 24 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: James King | Sports Director

The Buckeyes retain much of their talent for 2017-18, including their top seven point-scorers. Senior attack Molly Wood led the team in points (48), goals (42), shots (97) and shots on goal (70). She will be joined by sophomore midfielder Liza Hernandez, who likely would have led Ohio State in points had she not suffered a knee injury nine games into the season.

Must-watch team: Men’s Volleyball

The Ohio State men’s volleyball team doesn’t just win, it dominates. Last season, Ohio State finished 32-2 and won the NCAA championship for the second year in a row. It carried a win streak into the season and extended it to 42 wins — the third-longest in NCAA history – before dropping a match to UC Irvine. When the team reached the NCAA tournament, it swept its semifinal match against Hawaii and its title match against BYU.

Though Ohio State will have to deal with the key losses of setter Christy Blough, middle blocker Driss Guessous and opposite hitter Miles Johnson to graduation, it returns 2017 Volleyball Magazine Player of the Year senior outside hitter Nicolas Szerszen, senior outside hitter Maxime Hervoir and redshirt junior middle blocker Blake Leeson. The Buckeyes will attempt a rare three-peat in the spring.

Most well-rounded team: Wrestling

The conference-champion wrestling team features a talented mix of upperclassmen — led by senior heavyweight NCAA champion and Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder – with the help of select underclassmen.

Sophomore Myles Martin checks the clock as he looks for back-points against Bo Nickal of Penn State on Feb. 3, 2017 at the Schottenstein Center. OSU lost, 32-12. Credit: Nicholas McWilliams | Former Sports Editor

All four individual Big Ten champions – redshirt senior Nathan Tomasello (133 pounds), redshirt senior Bo Jordan (174 pounds), redshirt sophomore Kollin Moore (197 pounds) and Snyder — return for another season and will be favorites both in their conference and in the country. That quartet will be joined on the mats by junior 184-pounder Myles Martin, who won the national championship at 174 pounds his freshman year, All-American 149-pounder Micah Jordan, who is a redshirt junior, and sophomore 141-pounder Luke Pletcher.

Just a season removed from winning the 2016 NCAA championship, Ohio State possesses a deep, talented roster capable of making a run at the 2018 title.

Biggest Sleeper: Men’s Golf

The Ohio State men’s golf team did not have the season it had hoped for, finishing ninth in the Stanford Regional. On a promising note, however, a pair of then-sophomores Will Grimmer and Daniel Wetterich placed 12th and 27th, respectively, out of 75 golfers. Both golfers would be recognized after the season with All-Midwest honors by the Golf Coaches Association of America.

Each of the team’s top four golfers — Grimmer, Wetterich, sophomore Jeg Coughlin III and junior Caleb Ramirez — will return to compete for a title in 2017-18. The Buckeyes also have two golfers — Grimmer and sophomore Caden Orewiler — who qualified to play in the 2017 U.S. Amateur Championship.

So while the team did not end 2017 at the top, it still returns its top performers and are well-positioned for the 2017-18 season.

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