Ohio State then-sophomore attack Tre Leclaire walks off the field with his teammates after scoring his first goal of the game in the first quarter against Michigan on April 13, 2018. Ohio State beat the Wolverines 8-5. Credit: Edward Sutelan | Editor in Chief

The No.16 Ohio State’s men lacrosse team opens up its season at noon this Saturday when it squares off against Cleveland State at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Ohio State is just two seasons removed from being the NCAA men’s lacrosse runner-up, though a departure of key veterans from that year’s team led to a letdown year in 2018, with the Buckeyes finishing just 8-7 overall and missing the NCAA tournament.

Ohio State will return two All-Americans in 2019, junior attacking midfielder Tre Leclaire and junior midfielder Ryan Terefenko. Both Leclaire and Terefenko were named Players to Watch by the Big Ten in January, as was senior midfielder Jack Jasinski.

Leclaire has been a consistent threat for Ohio State in the past two years, finishing second in team points in his freshman season with 65 and leading the team in 2018 with 37.

The Buckeyes defense will be a critical point to keep an eye on this season after senior defenders Ben Randall, Erik Evans and Freddy Freibott graduated from Ohio State and advanced on to Major League Lacrosse teams.

“We lost three All-American caliber guys, and, at the end of the day, you hope to develop the next wave of defenseman,” head coach Nick Myers said.

Senior defender Matt Borges said despite the veteran departures, the mentality of playing strong defense has not changed on the team, and Ohio State still believes it will be a program built on its defenders.

“We’re excited to prove people that we are the same team, and that is a credit to the coaching,” Borges said.

Borges noted that while he expects the defense to remain strong, he believes the team will take on a different look than in years past. He said this season, depth appears to be a strength for a team that was young in 2018, and that the athleticism of the players has the team excited about what the year could hold.

Ohio State had scrimmages in January against Hill Academy, Robert Morris and No. 2 Duke. Myers said both Robert Morris and Duke specifically helped test the team differently and provided challenges that will help the team going forward.

Many of the team’s freshmen and sophomore players stepped up last season. Replacing Jake Withers as the team’s face-off specialist, sophomore midfielder Justin Inacio was crucial to the Buckeyes in 2018 in the circle, winning 130 of his team-leading 212 face-offs. He finished the year with Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.

Sophomore JT Bugliosi also came up big for the Buckeyes, recording 12 points with eight goals and four assists.

“Your freshmen and sophomore year is where you see the biggest jump in terms of your comfortability, and understanding what to expect,” Myers said. “With that sophomore class and guys in key roles, we are certainly looking forward to taking another big step.”

The Buckeyes will also field two junior captains this season, with junior midfielder Ryan Terefenko and junior defenseman Jeff Henrick both receiving the honor. This will be the first time in 19 years that Ohio State will have two junior captains.

The team begins the season against Cleveland State at home at noon on Saturday.