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Ohio State men’s lacrosse aims to end losing streak at Showdown in the Shoe

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OSU junior attacker J.T. Blubaugh (9) during a game against Notre Dame on March 26 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Cameron Carr | Lantern photographer

OSU junior attacker J.T. Blubaugh (9) during a game against Notre Dame on March 26 at Ohio Stadium. Credit: Cameron Carr | Lantern photographer

When one hears of attendance for a college sporting event exceeding 20,000, the sport that usually comes to mind is football or basketball.

The Ohio State men’s lacrosse team (5-7, 0-2), however, will likely see an attendance of this magnitude on Saturday against Michigan (3-7, 0-2) for the Showdown in the Shoe, the annual prelude to the OSU spring football game.

OSU coach Nick Myers said he’s “not sure there’s a venue like it in college lacrosse.”

“(We’re) very grateful for the opportunity that (Athletic Director Gene) Smith, (football) coach (Urban) Meyer and the administration has provided the program,” he said. “It’s an incredible responsibility to be in front of that many Buckeye fans and to go out there and play our very best, and we’re certainly looking forward to the opportunity.”

The 2010 Showdown in the Shoe matchup between the Buckeyes and Air Force, a game OSU won 10-6, holds the NCAA lacrosse regular-season attendance record. At halftime of the game, when attendance is recorded, 31,078 were in Ohio Stadium.

OSU redshirt junior midfielder and co-captain Tyler Pfister said the team looks forward to the Showdown in the Shoe every year, and this year’s edition is no exception.

“It’s something that’s a huge deal to us every season,” Pfister said. “We really appreciate the fans coming out and supporting us.”

This year’s contest marks the second time OSU, which is amid a six-game losing skid, will face off against the Wolverines in the annual event. In front of 21,064 fans, the Scarlet and Gray defeated Michigan 15-6 in 2014.

The Buckeyes and Wolverines have met every year since the latter program’s move to Division I in 2012. OSU has gone 4-0 in the matchups.

Myers said the game against the school’s rival is one “you circle from Day 1.” Pfister added there’s extra energy going into Saturday.

“I think practices look a little bit different this week — just knowing who we’re playing and what that means to each of the guys,” Pfister said. “It’s hard to describe … but there’s definitely something there for sure.”

Close but no cigars

OSU has lost four of its last five games by one-goal margins. The other loss was a lopsided 15-6 defeat courtesy of then-No. 1 Denver.

Myers said there’s a lot that goes into late-game situations, and although the team played well against No. 14 Johns Hopkins in its previous game, it wasn’t enough.

“We thought last week was arguably our best week of practice of the year, and I think it showed in a lot of the things we did,” Myers said. “But unfortunately, we came up short against a talented team.”

Pfister said that since the team is so close to winning, nothing drastic needs to be changed.

“I think it’s just doing the little things that we know how to do, and not necessarily changing who we are but … refining and doing the things we already know how to do,” he said.

Michigan has had its own struggles in late-game situations the past few weeks. The Wolverines have lost three of their past four games by a one-goal margin.

Offense coming alive

After failing to record double-digit goals in its previous six games, the Buckeye offense came alive on Saturday against Johns Hopkins, scoring 12 times in the loss.

Myers said the opportunities for scoring have been there, but capitalizing on those chances has been the problem.

“We’ve outshot our opponents the last three games, but we did a better job (against Johns Hopkins) of getting (in the) middle of the field, getting more shots between the hash marks and finishing opportunities,” Myers said.

The offense is set to go up against Michigan redshirt junior goalie and co-captain Gerald Logan.

Logan is tied for ninth in the nation in saves per game, stopping an average of 11.6 shots.

After Michigan

The Scarlet and Gray are set to take on No. 5 Maryland on April 24. The game in College Park, Maryland, is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.

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