The Ohio State Buckeyes men’s lacrosse team kicks off the 2019 season today against the Cleveland State Vikings at a sold-out Woody Hayes Athletic Center. The Buckeyes enter the season as the 16th-ranked team in the nation, and one of six Big Ten teams ranked in the top-20. For clarity’s sake, there are also only six Big Ten men’s lacrosse teams: No. 3 Maryland, No. 7 Johns Hopkins (yes, it’s weird), No. 9 Penn State, No. 12 Rutgers and No. 20 Michigan.
Per the usual, Ohio State boasts a challenging schedule which, in addition to facing the aforementioned conference powers, also includes ranked matchups with Denver, Notre Dame and UMass.
After a runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament in 2017, the Buckeyes had something of a letdown year last season as they missed out on the tournament entirely. Now, Ohio State faces a new season in an even more powerful conference as the Buckeyes’ quest for a national title continues.
Ohio State finished with an 8-7-overall record, including going 3-2 in conference play. Ultimately, the Buckeyes fell to Johns Hopkins in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament and missed out on the NCAA Tournament.
The Buckeyes also opened up last season against the Vikings of Cleveland State. Ohio State took that meeting 13-6, starting their season off with a 4-0 record. Unfortunately, a five-game skid in the middle of the season proved too much for the Buckeyes to overcome when it came time to tournament selection.
Now-junior midfielder Tre Leclaire led the Buckeyes in scoring last season with 26 goals on the year. Sophomore midfielder Jackson Reid added 23 goals of his own during his freshman campaign. On the other end of the field, despite struggles in goal, a dominant defense allowed the fewest goals per game (8.6) in the Big Ten. And after a 2017 season of utter domination from the circle, faceoffs fell off in 2018 (even with a solid specialist at midfield), leading to reduced possessions on behalf of the Buckeyes.
What they’ve lost
A lot. 13 seniors. Including Ben Randall—the first back-to-back USILA All-American in program history. Randall was selected 14th-overall in the Major League Lacrosse Draft in 2018. The Buckeyes also lost Erik Evans and Freddy Freibott on the defensive end. Given the problems in goal last season, Ohio State will need to find an answer to the whole defense this year as they move forward without significant veteran leadership.
Also gone are Colin Chell, John Kelly and Gale Thorpe, who scored an aggregate 31 goals last year. Fortunately for the Buckeyes, despite those numbers, they haven’t lost too much firepower on attack.
What they bring back
All that firepower. Leclaire and Reid return, along with senior midfielder Jack Jasinski, who had 17 goals last year. Jasinski and Leclaire both were named to the Big Ten preseason players to watch list.
Opposite Leclaire and company, Matt Borges is the only returning starter from last season’s dominant low defense. Fortunately, he is joined by defensive midfielder Ryan Terefenko, who was a three-time defensive player of the week last year and a first team All-Big Ten selection. Terefenko was also named to the Big Ten watch list as one of the strongest midfielders in the conference.
In all, the Buckeyes return six starters, including redshirt sophomore Josh Kirson, who started in goal for the second half of last season. In terms of specialists, Ohio State also brings back Justin Inacio, who proved to be a pretty dominant faceoff specialist by season’s end, even earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors.
What they’ve gained
In November, 16 players signed on in the 2019 lacrosse recruiting class, giving Ohio State the fifth-rated recruiting class in the nation. But that will have to wait for another year.
In terms of who is on the roster this spring, attackman Jack Myers is the highest-rated recruit at Ohio State in the 2018 class (No. 36), coming to Columbus as a four-star from Maryland. He is joined by midfielder Johnny Wiseman (No. 66) from Olentangy Liberty. Wiseman’s high school teammate, Skylar Wahlund, could also prove to be a contender at goalie.
Head coach Nick Meyers enters his 11th season at the helm of Ohio State. Myers has amassed a 93-70 overall record in Columbus, including a 32-23 mark in conference. He’s also earned three NCAA Tournament appearances along the way.