Fresh off its first victory of the season, the No. 19 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team is hoping to continue building momentum during the young season.
After taking down Marquette Saturday, 11-7, the team is set to battle No. 10 Penn State in Ohio Stadium Saturday for the 2014 Creator’s Trophy.
Starting the season with two overtime losses to both Johns Hopkins and Massachusetts, the Buckeyes’ (1-2, 0-0) fortunes reversed with the home victory against Marquette.
Freshman midfielder Jake Withers played a key role in that game, winning 14 of 21 faceoffs and collecting 11 ground balls, taking home ECAC co-Rookie of the Week honors in the process.
Senior defenseman Dominic Imbordino said winning the faceoff and ground ball battles are important because they give the offense more opportunities to score.
“It was definitely big for Jake to get that many wins and ground balls because it gave us that many more possessions on our offensive end,” Imbordino said. “It allows us to play the make-it-take-it, not somebody else.”
Penn State (2-1, 0-0), which has big expectations after making the NCAA tournament last season for the first time since 2005, is coming off an 8-7 victory at then-No. 4 Notre Dame last Saturday.
Senior attackman Shane Sturgis led the way for the Nittany Lions, netting five goals against the Fighting Irish defense. OSU senior defenseman Joe Meurer said Penn State boasts an offense that can put points up on the board, but thinks OSU has a gameplan in place that will limit the Nittany Lions’ chances.
“It’s all about adjusting to what we see on film,” Meurer said. “They definitely have a great attack and some capable midfielders, but we will be ready to take them.”
Offensively, OSU will look to break down a defense that is yielding only about 8.7 goals per game. Junior midfielders Jesse King and Turner Evans have shined early in the season, but OSU coach Nick Myers said he knows it will take a team effort to put the ball in the back of the net.
“They have arguably one of the best goalies in the country in senior Austin Kaut,” Myers said. “For us, it’s going to be generating quality shots and then finishing off those opportunities.”
Last season, the Buckeyes won a nail-biter in Happy Valley after King scored in overtime as time expired.
“We know they are a great team; they are really hard-nosed and gritty,” Meurer said. “It’s just about not only matching that but taking it to another level, playing with more fire and energy than them. I think we will come out on top.”
Myers said the importance of this game goes well beyond what happens during the 2014 campaign.
“This is why you come to Ohio State,” Myers said. “It’s a top 10 opponent and a rivalry in Penn State … It’s important for not only the 2014 team, but also to all the men who have made this program what it is.”
Gametime is set for Saturday at 1 p.m.