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Men’s Lacrosse: Ohio State battles No. 1 Penn State in hopes of bounce-back opportunity

Ohio State sophomore midfielder Justin Inacio (30) wins the face off against Rutgers at Ohio Stadium on Mar. 31. Ohio State lost 6-14. Credit: Willow Mollenkopf | For The Lantern

The No. 7 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team heads to Pennsylvania in a huge Big Ten matchup against No. 1 Penn State at noon Sunday. The Buckeyes are looking to bounce back from their first loss of the season.

Ohio State (7-1, 0-1 Big Ten) played its first Big Ten matchup of the season at home, but were upset by Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights dominated the first half while the Buckeyes made uncommon mistakes, scoring just 6-of-45 shots and turning the ball more than 17 times.

The team mentality has been to put that loss — a 14-6 drubbing against the Scarlet Knights this past Sunday — in its collective “back pocket” and “remember what this feels like,” Ohio State senior midfielder and captain Logan Maccani said.

“We are not going to let that loss that week dictate how we are going to play moving forward,” Maccani said.

Ohio State head coach Nick Myers said players have to learn to deal with adversity in life, and that “you have to respond to that. For our men and our staff it was an opportunity to look within and that’s what this week has been about.”

Penn State (8-1, 1-0 Big Ten) is on a hot streak, winning five straight games including a win against No. 3 Maryland in the Nittany Lions’ first conference game of the season.

“They are a unanimous No. 1 team in the country for a reason,” Myers said. “They are extremely well coached, an experienced goalie, and a defense that is certainly playing their very best stuff right now.”

Both Penn State and Ohio State have a knack for finding the net, scoring in bunches. Penn State leads the nation in scoring offense with 17.78 goals per game, while Ohio State’s offense ranked No. 20 in the country with 12.5 goals per game.

The Nittany Lions have two of the best players in the country. Junior attacker Mac O’Keefe is No. 2 in the nation with 38 goals, while redshirt junior attacker Grant Ament leads the nation in assists with 48.

“We have to go in with an attitude that they have to beat us, we aren’t going to go in there with the mindset that we have to hang on,” Myers said.

Ohio State junior attacker Tre LeClaire enters the game No. 9 in the country with 3.13 goals per game. LeClaire has been of the most consistent players this season, still managing to score twice in the Buckeyes’ sole loss a week ago.

The faceoff battle will be one of the most intriguing matchups of the year. Ohio State sophomore midfield Justin Inacio and Penn State junior midfield Gerard Arceri both rank in the top 15 in faceoff win percentage, and both are top 10 in ground ball pickups per game.

However, the Buckeyes defense has more consistent, ranking No. 17 in scoring defense, only allowing 10 goals per game. Penn State’s defense is No. 29, allowing 10.44 goals per game.

As the season comes closer to the end, this matchup has a lot of implications to the Big Ten tournaments, and the national championship itself.

Maccani said the most he can do as a leader is to emphasize that the key to succeeding long term in the season is to take everything one step at a time.

“May is not guaranteed, May is something you earn,” Maccani said. “The month of April is always about playing your best lacrosse in the hopes of extending your season.”

Ohio State will take on Penn State at noon Sunday.

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