Defense wins championships.
This classic sports saying is one that many teams preach, but few actually put into action. In a world where offensive players and highlights are given much of the media attention, it is usually a solid defense that helps a team win.
The Ohio State men’s lacrosse team put this mantra into action over the weekend, as it defeated No. 17 Marquette 12-8 on Friday and Bellarmine 9-5 two days later en route to a 2-0 record in the Midwest Lacrosse Classic.
In a weekend of lacrosse action that saw OSU, Marquette, Bellarmine and Detroit — the last of which the Buckeyes did not play — face off against each other, the Scarlet and Gray’s defense allowed a total of 13 goals in the tournament’s second year — and first at Ohio Stadium.
Redshirt junior goalie Tom Carey led the defensive charge for the Buckeyes. After a career-high 16 saves on Friday against Marquette, Carey followed with a nine-save effort in OSU’s win over Bellarmine.
Senior defender Robby Haus had high words of praise for his goalie, who he said is fun to play with.
“He’s starting to get really consistent, and that’s huge for us. He’s been communicating a lot … and he’s just been awesome,” Haus said. “He makes it easy for us.”
Carey stressed the importance of the defense, along with the offense, playing cohesively.
“(The defense plays) as a unit. Seven guys down there,” Carey said. “It’s really the offense having our backs and the defense doing the same.”
12-8 win over Marquette
The Buckeyes started off strong against Marquette. OSU junior attacker Austin Shanks scored the first goal of the game, and freshman midfielder Logan Maccani notched the first goal of his college career to give the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead.
Players like Maccani, freshman midfielder Noah Best and sophomore midfielder Trevor Hodgins had much-needed and timely goals for the Buckeyes all night, Haus said.
“We really needed guys to step up this week,” he said. “It’s really nice to see young guys step up and make big plays.”
Marquette tied up the score at the end of the first after a goal by senior attacker Conor Gately.
OSU answered in the beginning of the second period by scoring three unanswered goals, including two by junior attacker J.T. Blubaugh, to push the lead to 5-2. The half ended with a 6-4 lead for the Buckeyes.
The Golden Eagles closed the gap to 7-6 in the third, thanks in large part to winning four straight faceoffs. At that point, OSU coach Nick Myers brought senior midfield specialist Tae Kim into the game to replace junior midfield specialist Jake Withers.
“We threw a different look at them,” Myers said when explaining the change at the faceoff position. “Tae’s a senior (who) we think is very capable. I thought he went in there and battled and kept Jake fresh.”
A goal by OSU senior attacker Carter Brown gave the Buckeyes an 8-6 lead heading into the fourth.
Marquette came out attacking on offense in the fourth quarter. The Golden Eagles fired 16 shots in the quarter, but only Gately and junior midfielder Ryan McNamara were able to find the back of the net, as the Buckeyes came out on top 12-8.
Haus lauded the efforts of Carey in the fourth quarter. The goalie made seven saves in the final period.
“One of the things that you guys probably don’t see on the stat sheets that he’s doing is communicating like crazy,” Haus said. “Every play, every time that they’re changing a set, he’s … getting us to our spots. He’s just been crucial for us.”
Friday’s win marked the Buckeyes’ first win against a ranked opponent this season.
“It’s exciting,” Carey said about a win over No. 17 Marquette. “We definitely have faced a little bit of adversity early on in the season, losing to (Massachusetts). To come back and get this … win at home is a big deal for us.”
9-5 win over Bellarmine
Unlike Friday’s start, the Buckeyes struggled out of the gate against Bellarmine.
The Knights picked up an early two-goal lead before OSU was able to gain possession of the ball. Unforced turnovers, sloppy passes and missed opportunities left the Scarlet and Gray scoreless for much of the beginning quarter.
“Obviously it wasn’t the start we anticipated,” Myers said. “I think it was just a matter of settling into the game. Once we got down to what we wanted to do and dictating the tempo we wanted to play at, things started to turn.”
That turn happened with 39 seconds left in the first quarter when Hodgins scored for the second time of the weekend to cut the deficit to 2-1. Sophomore attacker Colin Chell added his first of two goals with seven seconds left in the period to tie the game heading into the second quarter.
OSU picked up where it left off at the end of the quarter, stretching its scoring run to six goals in a row to build a 6-2 lead heading into the half.
Haus credited the whole team for the defense’s ability to shut down Bellarmine’s offense for an extended period of time.
“I just think that we always have each other’s backs,” he said. “The offense, when (the defense) is off, picks up their possession time and holds (the defense) on their backs.”
Bellarmine was unable to score again until 3:58 left in the third quarter, resulting in a more than 35-minute scoreless streak for the Golden Eagles. The game ended in a 9-5 win for the Buckeyes, extending their winning streak to three games.
Late in the fourth quarter, Chell was hit hard and walked off the field with assistance from trainers. After a few minutes on the sideline, he was carted off of the field.
“He’s going to be all right, but we’ll take a peek at him,” Myers said. “It’s a part of the game, and I’m sure that our training staff will do a great job getting him ready to go.”
Sunday’s game marked Shanks’ first game against Bellarmine since transferring from the school to attend OSU over the summer. The junior came through for the Scarlet and Gray, providing two goals and one assist for a total of three points on the day.
The Buckeyes will look to continue their winning ways as they get ready to travel to Hempstead, New York, on Saturday to play against Hofstra. The game is scheduled to begin at noon.