The No. 22 Ohio State men’s lacrosse team is undefeated at home in conference play so far this season and now gets a shot at extending that streak into the postseason.
OSU made it to the quarterfinals of the NCAA championship last year after upsetting Denver, 11-10, in the ECAC title game before the Pioneers moved on to play in the Big East Conference in 2014.
This year, OSU can defend its crown by winning two more games.
The Buckeyes and the Michigan Wolverines are both in their final seasons of ECAC play before Big Ten lacrosse begins next year, and the archrivals could square off in the championship game Saturday if they win in their respective semifinal matchups at Jesse Owens Memorial Field Thursday evening.
After already beating Air Force, 8-6, in the regular season April 19, the Buckeyes fell a week later. That loss came to the No. 16 Fairfield Stags (11-3, 3-1) — the tourney’s top seed — by a margin of 7-5 on the road to notch their only conference loss of the season.
When three teams in a five-team league all have a 3-1 record at season’s end after an ECAC round robin, they share a regular season title as tri-champions.
OSU, Air Force and Fairfield look to add a tournament title to their résumés, however, as the winner of Saturday’s final gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Seeding is accomplished by precedence of overall record in the event of a tie like this.
And while Bellarmine, the ECAC’s fifth team, is 7-5 on the season, the team was winless within the conference, allowing the 5-10 Wolverines to snag the last spot.
The Buckeyes will need another strong performance from senior goalie Scott Spencer to stifle an offensively-sound Air Force team that averages 42.3 shots per game and scores almost 12 goals per game. Spencer’s performance tending net could be the difference between a victory or a loss, especially if he can replicate his career-high 14 saves from the last game against Air Force.
Air Force has allowed exactly as many shots on goal in the fourth quarter as it has taken throughout the course of the season at 63.
OSU freshman midfielder Jake Withers went 10 for 17 on face offs in the April 19 victory.
Sophomore attackman Ryan Hunter led the Buckeyes with four goals in that game, but junior midfielder Jesse King – the team’s leading scorer throughout the year – might have to produce more in this game than he did with his one-goal, one-assist contribution if OSU is to outduel the Falcons again.
Game times for Fairfield-Michigan and OSU-Air Force are scheduled for 5 and 8 p.m., respectively. The winners are set to face one another at 5 p.m. Saturday.