With just two regular-season matchups remaining, the senior members of the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team can see the finish line to their collegiate careers and are still striving to cross it as Big Ten or NCAA champions.
But regardless of this season’s outcome, a prepared group of juniors, sophomores and freshmen are stepping up, allowing those seniors to leave with the assurance that their team remains in able hands, coach Nick Myers said.
“You have to lean on seniors because we have a great core group of them, but at the same time you have to look to that younger class who now have three years of experience under their belts, so we need them to play a big part as we come down the home stretch,” he said.
Senior midfielder Jesse King leads OSU in goals with 30 on the season, but several younger players closely follow his lead on offense.
Junior attackman Carter Brown, who put up two goals in OSU’s April 12 win over Michigan, holds the No. 2 spot with 26 goals. Two attackmen, junior Ryan Hunter, and freshman Colin Chell, are not far behind with 13 and 12 goals, respectively.
“I go into every game with the same mindset,” Brown said. “I’m not really focused on points, it’s about offense as a whole, so whatever I can do to help that.”
Brown has been an essential piece of the Buckeye lacrosse puzzle for three straight seasons, but he’s reached new heights this season. The attackman has scored goals in nine of the Buckeyes’ last 10 games, including a career-high six goals in the team’s 15-12 conference victory over Johns Hopkins on April 5.
Regardless of his numbers, Brown credits his success to the senior leaders he has learned from along the way.
“This is the third senior class I’ve been with and they’ve each been so influential on me both on and off the field,” Brown said. “I’m realizing I have to mold into one of them now and be a role model myself.”
The junior attackman’s development as a leader has allowed him to return the favor by influencing his younger teammates as well, particularly Chell, Brown said.
“Colin and I play similar games, so I try to lead by example,” he said. “I try to do the right things in practice and in games where he can see what I do, and try to resemble that, as well as building a friendship off the field, too.”
Against the Wolverines, Chell led the Buckeyes in goals, nabbing his first collegiate hat trick and earning his second Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week Award of the season.
From the get-go, Chell has demonstrated his abilities on the field, with four assists and 16 points overall this season.
“Colin fit right into our system from day one,” senior midfielder David Planning said. “He’s so mature, fast, strong, all in the same bit. He runs all over, takes hard checks and gets right back up.”
Chell, Brown and Hunter have consistently brought a great deal to the offensive table. But on the other side of the ball, the defensive effort from younger players has increased as well.
Named Big Ten Specialist of the Week for the second time this season, redshirt-sophomore goalie Tom Carey had 11 saves against Michigan and held the Wolverines scoreless for a 12:17 span in the first half, allowing the Buckeyes to take the lead.
Carey has played in every game during his first season with the Buckeyes, beating out seniors Cameron Stephens and Kevin Duffy for the starting spot and earning 127 saves along the way.
“You could get concerned when you’re relying on freshmen and sophomores to carry you, but in our case, I don’t think that’s true at all,” Myers said. “They’re contributing in important roles, but they’re learning from veteran guys.”
Planning said the seniors carry the responsibility of mentorship, but each player understands the importance of consistently giving 100 percent, regardless of class.
“We have a system where we practice hard Monday through Friday, so when your name is called, you’re expected to perform,” Planning said. “We believe we can throw anyone in at any time.”
The Buckeyes are set for their final home game of the season, seeking their fourth conference win against No. 3 Maryland on Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The “Showdown at the ‘Shoe” is set to take place at 11 a.m. prior the OSU football Spring Game.