The Ohio State men’s lacrosse team is gearing up to host the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the Buckeyes’ first game in Ohio Stadium of the 2016 season on Friday.
OSU (2-1) is coming off its first loss of the season last week against Massachusetts. The team looked disorganized in the second half, which led to a 16-9 defeat at the hands of the Minutemen.
“I think guys are really taking it on themselves as more a personal thing and something that we need to fix within ourselves,” redshirt junior midfielder and co-captain Tyler Pfister said. “We’re definitely learning from it but not dwelling on it.”
OSU coach Nick Myers said the team is evaluating last week’s performance, but he does not want his guys to get hung up on it.
“There’s been some reflection off of what we thought was a really disappointing loss,” Myers said. “We’re trying to put that behind us now and focus on us and prepare for a very good team that’s coming into Columbus on Friday night.”
UMBC is arriving in Columbus on the heels of a loss to Richmond in its first game of the season by a score of 7-5. The team had a disappointing campaign last year, going 5-8. Still, Myers said he fully expects the program to have a bounceback year.
“I just think, top to bottom, it’s a team that’s very disciplined,” he said. “We’re going to have to really work hard as a collective group to have success on Friday night.”
UMBC is led by its pair of senior captains: attacker Nate Lewnes and defender Zach Esser.
Esser guides a defense that allowed seven goals in the team’s first game. Last year, he became the first defender in the history of UMBC to earn back-to-back America East first-team honors.
One of the focuses heading into Friday’s game for the Buckeyes will be stopping the Retrievers’ pair of experienced attackers: Lewnes and junior Max Maxwell.
Lewnes saw his 18-game goal-scoring streak, which was sixth in the country at the time, end in the team’s loss to Richmond. A co-captain, Lewnes is the leader of the offense and has been a model of consistency over his first three years at UMBC.
Maxwell, who scored a goal last week against Richmond, earned all-rookie team honors as a freshman.
OSU senior midfielder and co-captain Kacy Kapinos stressed the importance of the defense playing together in order to stop the UMBC attack.
“We have a great, close (defensive) unit in Robby Haus, Chris Mahoney and Erik Evans. It’s just playing team defense,” Kapinos said. “It’s not two guys shutting them down –— it’s everybody talking, communicating (and) making sure we’re all on the same page.”
The game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. on Friday at the ‘Shoe.
One thing the Buckeyes will look to improve on this week is the man-up. The man-up, or extra-man opportunity, is akin to the power play in hockey. In these situations, the offense has a one-man advantage because a penalty on the other team forces a player to stay off the field for a duration of time.
OSU has struggled in capitalizing on these opportunities so far this year. The team went 0-4 in man-up opportunities last week against UMass, including failing to score on one occasion when the Minutemen were two players down after a succession of penalties.
“We have to give it to UMass,” Kapinos said. “They did a good job in man-down and picked off a couple of our passes.”
The Buckeyes have struggled in this area the whole season, only capitalizing on two of their 12 man-up opportunities, which ranks them tied for 47th nationally.
“We’re trying to find the right pieces and the right fit, but that’s a fine line,” Myers said of the man-up unit. “We’re going to keep chipping away at it. I’ve got a lot of confidence in that group.”
Friday’s game against UMBC will be OSU’s first time this year playing in front of a nationally televised audience, as the game is scheduled to be aired on ESPNU.
“Playing in the ‘Shoe too is something that guys are really looking forward to, and I think is going to be a motivator for us going into it,” Pfister said.
Myers said he knows his team is excited to play in front of viewers across the country, but he wants the team to stay focused on the task at hand.
“I think the opportunity, anytime you’re on national TV, to not only play well but to just showcase what Buckeye lacrosse is all about is a responsibility,” Myers said. “But at the end of the day, it’s the next game on our schedule.”
After Friday’s game against UMBC, the Buckeyes are set to host the Midwest Lacrosse Classic. OSU is scheduled play Marquette on March 4 and Bellarmine on March 6. The games are slated for 6 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively, at the ‘Shoe.