While snow continues to fall as March begins on Ohio State’s campus, in the lacrosse world, all signs point to May.
Chris May, that is, who is now the No. 1 faceoff specialist in the country as a member of the OSU men’s lacrosse team.
The Buckeyes fell just short of a win against Marquette on Sunday, losing 10-9, and while the team went 1-1 on the weekend in Louisville, Ky., May went 32 of 39 on the weekend in faceoffs, earning the Big Ten Specialist of the Week for the third time this season. And though he is more successful than ever, the graduate transfer has a “pretty crazy story” about his journey from Georgetown University to his first season with OSU.
“My senior year, I was only in pads for a few practices,” he said. “I was coming off a shoulder injury when I tore my Achilles tendon … Once I got hurt, I started focusing on my future and graduate school. I’ve been a Buckeye fan my whole life … I realized I only had one shot to do this, so I really worked hard.”
At Georgetown, he only stepped onto the field for 22 games, but now after just six with the Buckeyes, May has won 75 percent of his faceoffs and snagged 60 ground balls, thriving in a position named aptly for the precise skill set it requires.
“It’s a unique position,” OSU assistant coach Jamison Koesterer said. “It’s mental, just hearing the whistle, finding a rhythm between what he hears and what he needs to execute physically … It definitely takes athleticism, but it also takes savvy, a little bit of poise and IQ to understand and anticipate where the ball might come out.”
May’s success at the midfield X results not only from a consistent process, but also an unwavering support from his team, enabling him to aid the offense in taking the ball to the net.
“A lot goes into it, but I just try to get a good reaction off the whistle and fight for the ball,” May said. “We’ve got a lot of great offensive players. A lot of guys who can score, but they can’t score if they don’t have the ball … But it’s a group effort, we have a great unit. It’s a great dynamic.”
Although May is the new kid on the block with the Buckeyes, former high school teammate and OSU senior captain David Planning said he enjoys feeding off May’s familiar energy.
“He’s such an easy guy to play with,” Planning said. “He knows what his job is. It makes it a lot easier on the offense and the defense.”
With a lacrosse resume stronger than most of his younger OSU teammates, May assimilated quickly. He assumed a leadership role, but admitted his teammates teach him a few things too.
“Being older than a lot of the guys, I feel like I have more experience,” May said. “I’m trying to be a role model for the younger guys, but I’m still learning a lot from the older guys too.”
And while May continues to fine-tune his craft at the X, the rest of the Buckeyes look to learn from the loss at Marquette, revisiting the drawing board but “hungry” to return to the field.
“We’re getting back to the basics on both sides of the ball,” coach Nick Myers said. “There’s always a desire coming off a loss wanting to look at what went wrong and how to fix it. Tuesday, we practiced in the pouring rain for two hours and these guys didn’t blink an eye … It’s a long wait till Saturday whenever you lose, so they’re excited.”
The Buckeyes stand at the threshold of an uphill climb, facing three top 20 opponents before heading into conference play, but Planning said the team isn’t focusing on the opposition.
“Our focus is on us,” Planning said. “We want to dictate the tempo and the style of play, and that starts with us.”
With that goal in mind, Planning, May and the rest of the Buckeyes are set to move to Ohio Stadium on March 7 to take on Hofstra at 1 p.m.