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Ohio State men’s lacrosse gears up for Big Ten opener against Penn State

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OSU senior attacker Ryan Hunter (16) celebrates with teammates after a goal during a game against Marquette on March 4 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won 12-8. Credit: Jenna Leinasars | Multimedia Editor

OSU senior attacker Ryan Hunter (16) celebrates with teammates after a goal during a game against Marquette on March 4 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won 12-8.
Credit: Jenna Leinasars | Multimedia Editor

The Ohio State men’s lacrosse team is hoping to end its four-game losing streak on Sunday when it is set to kick off the Big Ten portion of its schedule against No. 18 Penn State.

OSU senior defenseman Chris Mahoney said the team is not trying to change too much in the midst of the four-game slide, which all came against top-20 opponents.

“It’s really just getting back to the basics and focusing on the early days in the week,” Mahoney said.

After a grueling end to the nonconference portion of the schedule, a return to conference opponents is something some players on the team said they are looking forward to.

“We’re so late in the season that people are starting to deteriorate physically and mentally, and as soon as you hear that we’re back in Big Ten’s it’s … a whole big rush of emotions and feelings, especially for the older and experienced guys,” Mahoney said.

However, OSU coach Nick Myers said the focus has to be on the game ahead.

“You’ve got to kind of put that aside and just prepare yourself and make sure that your team is ready to go, then take a hard look at (Penn State’s) strengths,” Myers said. “They’ve got a very good offense. They’re shooting the ball particularly well, they’re getting a great effort at the faceoff X, and they’re very well-coached defensively.”

Penn State (6-3) heads into the matchup coming off a 15-10 win against then-No. 1 Denver, one that Myers called “certainly a big win.”

The Nittany Lions offense currently ranks 12th in the nation with an average of 12.67 goals per game. The attack is spearheaded by freshman Grant Whent, who leads the team with 20 assists, and senior T.J. Sanders, whose 20 goals is tops on the team.

Although game film and preparation are components of the Buckeyes’ overall game plan this week to stop Penn State’s offense, senior defender Robby Haus said the main focus comes internal.

“Right now we’re focusing on ‘chasing us,’ is what coach calls it, and it’s basically just trying to play our best lacrosse of the year this Sunday,” Haus said.

Offensive slump

The Buckeye offense has struggled as of late, failing to score double-digit goals in each of the last five games.

The Scarlet and Gray have been without sophomore attacker Colin Chell the last four games and junior midfielder John Kelly the last six. Even so, players on that side of the ball have not given any excuses, Mahoney said.

“Guys really don’t put any blame on that and they really put a lot of pressure on themselves, which is awesome to see as competitors and teammates,” he said. “It’s finally nice to start seeing some results, as we are seeing in this week’s practice so far.”

Myers emphasized the need for different players on offense to fill the roles vacated by Chell and Kelly.

“We need some other guys to continue to step up. It was nice to see Johnny Pearson step up on Saturday versus a stingy Notre Dame defense, and I think efforts like that are going to be important for us moving forward,” Myers said.

Pearson almost matched his season total of five goals in the 9-8 loss to the Fighting Irish, as he scored four times.

“We’re going to have to get to 10 (goals) to be able to win this game Saturday,” Myers said.

What’s next

The Scarlet and Gray are scheduled to continue Big Ten play on April 9 in Baltimore against No. 9 Johns Hopkins. The game against the Blue Jays is set to begin at 2 p.m.

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