The No. 18 Ohio State Buckeyes men’s lacrosse team toppled the top-ranked Denver Pioneers Sunday night by a score of 16-7 in Ohio Stadium. The win was the Buckeyes’ first over a top-ranked team since 1968, and their undefeated, 9-0 start is the program’s best start since 1966, when the Buckeyes were a perfect 14-0 on the season. Ohio State is one of just four remaining undefeated teams in Division I, and are scheduled to face two of the others, No. 2 Penn State and No. 5 Rutgers, in Big Ten play.
Ohio State also celebrated senior night Sunday, honoring 11 players on the roster. This class has contributed 33 program wins in their careers, including a trip to the NCAA Quarterfinals in 2015 after the Buckeyes defeated Duke in the opening round of the tournament.
Denver entered the game with the nation’s ninth-best scoring offense, averaging more than 13 points per game. They also boasted one of the NCAA’s top scoring defenses, allowing just 7.33 points per game. Ohio State’s defense, meanwhile, has allowed just 6.63 points per outing, led by senior goalie Tom Carey, who is sixth in the NCAA in save percentage at 61.2 percent, and junior defenseman Eric Evans, who has a team-high eight forced turnovers on the year.
Ohio State and Denver have met 26 times in program history, having previously been conference foes until the inaugural season of Big Ten lacrosse in 2014. With the win over the Pioneers, Ohio State now leads the all-time series 15-11. The Buckeyes also avenged last season’s 15-6 loss in Denver.
Freshman midfielder Tre Leclaire, who leads the Buckeyes in scoring on the year, opened things up for Ohio State with a goal just 1:16 into the game. Denver quickly responded, but senior midfielder Johnny Pearson capitalized on a man-up opportunity, assisted by Leclaire, to give the Buckeyes a lead that they would never relinquish. Senior attackman Eric Fannell followed up 10 seconds later with his first goal of the game, assisted by freshman midfielder Ryan Terefenko. Pearson then broke a six-minute scoring drought with his second goal of the game, assisted by junior attackman Colin Chell. Senior midfielder J.T. Blubaugh then capped off the first quarter with a goal of his own with senior midfielder Tyler Pfister on the assist to give the Buckeyes a 5-1 advantage heading into the second quarter.
The defenses slowed things down in the second, but Leclaire added his second and third goals of the game, with Chell and Fannell on the assists. Then, with one second left in the half, Chell himself found the back of the net to put Ohio State up 7-1 at the break.
The Buckeyes found their rhythm on offense once again in the third quarter, with Fannell scoring once again to open the second half of play, assisted by Terefenko. Leclaire added his fourth goal of the game on a Blubaugh assist, which was followed up by another Fannell goal midway through the quarter to put the Buckeyes up 10. Denver finally found the back of the net once more with 2:54 remaining in the quarter, but Leclaire hit his fifth goal of the game to put Ohio State up 12-2 heading into the final quarter.
After assisting Fannell on two goals, Terefenko scored his first goal of the game with 12:18 remaining in the game. Denver then scored two straight goals to close the gap, but senior attackman Austin Shanks scored in a man-up opportunity to stem the Pioneers’ run. Blubaugh then found the back of the net once more before Pearson capped the Buckeyes’ scoring with another man-up goal with 5:16 remaining.
Leclaire once again led the Buckeyes in scoring on the day, adding five goals to his season total along with two assists. Fannell and Pearson had three goal apiece (Fannell also logged four assists), while Blubaugh had two goals of his own. As a whole, the team had 14 total assists, far exceeding their average of six per game this season.
Carey recorded 11 saves on the day on 18 shots on goal. The Buckeyes outshot the Pioneers 22-18 overall.
Ohio State lost the overall faceoff battle, winning only 11-of-26 attempts. However, the Buckeyes dominated the groundball battle, winning 33 to Denver’s 18. Ohio State also caused seven turnovers compared to just three for the Pioneers.
With the loss, Denver falls to 5-2 on the season. Next up, the Pioneers head to Maryland to face Towson.
The win was the Buckeyes’ third in nine days, having previously defeated 10th-ranked Towson in Maryland. While Ohio State will have some much needed rest, not playing again until Saturday, the schedule does not get any easier, as they face No. 3 Notre Dame in South Bend this weekend before heading to State College to face Penn State to open conference play.