After its nine regular-season wins and thrilling national championship appearance last season, this year’s Ohio State men’s lacrosse team has a lot to consider ahead of its upcoming Big Ten season.
As the only Big Ten team with fewer than six wins, Ohio State (5-4) begins conference play at home Saturday when it meets Penn State (6-3) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The Buckeyes have been unable to break their losing streak, which has reached three games after losses to Towson, No. 3 Denver and No. 7 Notre Dame.
The losses mean the game against the Nittany Lions, who are on a two-game win streak, will be critical for Ohio State’s playoff chances given that there are just five games remaining.
“At this point, in terms of wins in conferences, it’s huge,” Ohio State head coach Nick Myers said. “I think every one of these games feels like a playoff game in the sense that you know you’re competing and positioning yourself for postseason play and making that conference tournament. Only four of the 16 teams will make it, so every game has got to have a kind of a playoff feel to it, and it just starts at the first one.”
Ohio State’s 9-8 loss to Notre Dame Sunday didn’t do any favors for the Buckeyes’ record, but it did give the players a much-needed boost in confidence.
Ohio State held strong and answered each Fighting Irish goal to remain within one late in the game, except for the game-tying goal. Myers said he was happy with the team’s offensive play, specifically its fast pace and number of quality scoring chances.
“You hate to get those kinds of outcomes but I think you focus on the process of getting better, and I think we have improved. When you look at Towson, Notre Dame, Denver — these are final-four, quarter-final teams. These are good lacrosse teams,” Myers said. “You never accept losing, but you do need to be focused on improving, and I do believe that we have.”
In many ways, the beginning of Big Ten play represents the start of a new season altogether. After the slow start, Ohio State has a chance to start fresh and commit all its focus to getting to the Big Ten tournament.
Before it can make it there, however, Ohio State must clash against some of the top teams in the country, including a formidable No. 2 Maryland team (7-1), No. 6 Johns Hopkins (6-2), No. 9 Rutgers (7-2), and No. 15 Michigan (7-2).
Myers said he knew the team could fix its issues from previous games, and said it spent this week addressing those problems. As the games get tougher and the stakes get higher, defensive cohesion and offensive consistency become all the more important for the team to compete in a conference stacked top to bottom with talent.
“We took great strides last weekend against Notre Dame,” Ohio State senior attack Colin Chell said. “We’re just looking to carry that excitement and improvement through this week and then obviously to Penn State this weekend.”