Spirits are high and confidence is soaring as the No. 8 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team gears up for its season opener on the road against Cleveland State at 6 p.m. Saturday.
The Buckeyes are looking to prove they still have what it takes to get to the national championship following an exodus of impact players, including Major League Lacrosse draftees midfielder Jake Withers and top-scoring attacker Eric Fannell. Sophomore attack/midfielder Tre Leclaire, last year’s Big Ten Freshman of the Year, will be counted on to remain healthy and take an even larger role on offense.
While the team has big shoes to fill on offense, defensemen Erik Evans, Ben Randall and Matt Borges are all returning starters and should help stabilize the backend of last season’s team.
Players are also eager to show off the new talent the team added in the offseason.
“We gained Jackson Reid, he’s a freshman from Canada – slick, great hands,” senior long-stick midfielder Freddy Freibott said. “We’ve got Justin Inacio up on the faceoff X, he’s been a major impact player. Evan Riss has been a fantastic force at [long-stick midfielder].”
The Buckeyes also added former Ohio State men’s basketball strength and conditioning coach Dave Richardson to the staff in the same role. Richardson has not only been instrumental in the team’s physical growth, but has helped the team make progress off the field.
“Our saying, ‘BOOM’ – brothers on one mission – he’s brought that to our team,” senior short-stick defensive midfielder Brendan Barger said. “He’s been an incredibly positive new thing that we have this year. We’re definitely getting a lot stronger and a lot faster too so we always appreciate that.”
High praise for Richardson is a sentiment shared among teammates, and players are enthusiastic to see how it translates to the field.
However, the Buckeyes said they still have work left following preseason scrimmages against The Hill Academy and No. 1 Duke.
“I don’t think we’re in a very comfortable spot right now, I mean, we’re constantly trying to get better and our coaches are doing a great job of pushing us and getting us out of that comfort level. That’s where our growth is,” senior midfielder Bo Lori said. “It hasn’t been a comfortable preseason but that’s how we like it around here.”
Attitudes appeared to change following Saturday’s scrimmage against Duke. Barger said he thought his team stacked up well against the top-ranked Blue Devils.
The team begins its season in Cleveland Saturday when it faces the Vikings.