Maryland men’s lacrosse will be traveling outside the state for the second consecutive weekend as it heads to Columbus to face No. 9 Ohio State.
The Buckeyes enter this game similarly to how No. 2 Maryland does, coming off a come-from-behind victory on the road against Johns Hopkins last Sunday. Now, Ohio State sits at 8-2 on the season and 1-2 in the Big Ten, in a threatening position in the standings just two spots below the Terps.
Save for a couple games in the last few years, Maryland has generally had success against the Buckeyes in the teams’ past matchups. The Terps lead the all-time series 8-3, but are just 3-3 in their last six meetings with two of those losses coming on the road.
Maryland has established a pretty solid foothold in the Big Ten through its first three games, taking care of Michigan and Rutgers after falling to Penn State to put the Terps at 2-1 in conference play. Currently in a tie with Johns Hopkins for the second spot in the Big Ten, a win on Saturday would guarantee Maryland a spot in the conference tournament and likely another shot at figuring out Penn State before the NCAA tournament.
Maryland’s season has also made it battle-tested for any opponents that lie ahead. Having played from behind and while ahead in several games this season, with their comeback against Rutgers being the most recent example of playing from behind, the Terps feel prepared for whatever challenges may be ahead.
“Momentum-wise, absolutely, I think that game was huge for us,” sophomore midfielder Bubba Fairman said of the Rutgers game. “We came out with the deficit against Penn State, we fought back and we didn’t quite come back fully in that game, but against Rutgers we had been through that, so we knew that we could get out of it and I think moving with that mindset moving forward is gonna be awesome and huge for us.”
Saturday’s game begins at 1 p.m. ET and will be televised on Big Ten Network.
No. 9 Ohio State Buckeyes (8-2, 1-2 Big Ten)
2018 record: 8-6, 3-3 Big Ten
Head coach Nick Myers shared Big Ten Coach of the Year honors with John Tillman last season, leading Ohio State to a third-place conference finish fueled by wins over then-No. 1 Maryland, No. 20 Michigan and No. 9 Rutgers in consecutive weeks to earn a spot in the conference tournament. Myers and the Buckeyes have carried over that strong last-month performance into this season, elevating themselves into the upper echelon of Division I for most of this year on the back of strong play on both sides of the ball.
Players to know
Junior attack Tre Leclaire (No. 44) has grown into one of the stars of the game for the Buckeyes this season, improving upon his 26-goal output from last season with 33 goals through 10 games to put him among the top 10 scorers in Division I. Leclaire has scored nine goals in the last three games, and will likely look to assert himself early and often against Maryland’s defense on Saturday.
Sophomore faceoff specialist Justin Inacio (No. 30) has followed up his 2018 Big Ten Freshman of the Year campaign with a strong sophomore season at the X, winning 143 of 236 draws (.606) for the Buckeyes. Maryland faceoff specialist Austin Henningsen has faced the best and worst of opponent faceoff specialists this season, with the former likely being the case this weekend.
Junior midfielder Ryan Terefenko (No. 34) is one of the best short-stick defensive midfielders in the country, scooping a team-high (excluding Inacio) 28 ground balls this season while locking up opposing midfielders. With a vacuum of a player in Terefenko on the other side, sophomore short-stick defensive midfielder Roman Puglise knows it’s going to be another battle in between the restraining lines.
“The middle of the field, it kinda dictates the game,” Puglise said. “I always looked at it as a pride thing and just being hard-nosed and wanting to get in there, not being afraid to get hit at sometimes, not being afraid to fail ... you just gotta have a want to get dirty.”
Clears. This will be the second time this season that the Terps will face a team that ranks No. 1 in the country in clear percentage, first with Villanova and now Ohio State. The Buckeyes are careful with the ball, turning it over just 14.9 times per game (13th in the country) and are really precise on their clearances, so don’t expect the Terps to try to deploy too aggressive of a 10-man ride.
Causing turnovers. On the flip side, for how good Ohio State is at protecting the ball, they struggle at forcing other teams to turn it over. They force other teams to turn it over just 5.2 times per contest, ranking 72nd in the country in that category. A couple of extra possessions could be the deciding factor in this game, and Maryland would likely be the be the beneficiary if that ended up being the case.
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Bubba Fairman get things rolling? Fairman had a heap of pressure and expectations put on him coming into this season, with many hoping the sophomore would at least somewhat fill the role of departed star Connor Kelly. Fairman has played well but not to his ceiling as a player this season, recording 17 goals and 13 assists, but had a hat trick against Rutgers last weekend, a game that could get him going late in the season.
“One thing I thought that really helped was just the team kind of putting me spots to be successful,” Fairman said. “I wouldn’t say it was a breakout game for me, I would say it was a breakout game for the team, and I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time.”
2. How will Maryland’s defense fare against a top offense? Rutgers looked to have exposed Maryland’s defensive flaws in the first half of Sunday’s game, unloading nine goals through 30 minutes of play. But the defense stiffened, limiting the Scarlet Knights to just four goals in the second half, a testament to how this team has been able to adjust and stick to the game plan when the bullets are flying.
“The biggest thing I would say is just getting the fundamentals sticking to the basic things we learned in the fall,” Puglise said. “If we can do those things great, the game plan becomes much easier. And I think you see us lacking in certain areas in our fundamentals early on, which causes more mistakes in the whole game plan, and when we get back to doing that, I mean, I think we’re a pretty talented defense.”
3. Can Maryland get revenge for last year’s home loss? The Terps were able to avenge their home loss against Albany earlier this season and certainly will be looking to do the same Saturday. The team has mentioned earlier this season how personally they take home losses, so expect Maryland to come out looking to make a statement.
“Last year they came here and beat us pretty well, so we gotta bring that back to them this year,” Puglise said. “Every game is gonna be hard in the Big Ten, but there’s a little added incentives knowing that they came in here into our house and really handled us last year.”