(Photo Courtesy of Ohio State Athletics)
In 2017, the Ohio State Buckeyes reached what may view as the pinnacle of the sport when they made their first ever Championship Weekend appearance. And while the Buckeyes didn’t come out on top, losing to Maryland in the national title game, it certainly marked their arrival into the elite tier of college lacrosse that they had seemed to be sitting just outside of for so long.
Ohio State hasn’t been able to get back to that level of success since.
The past two full seasons of play have seen the Buckeyes either implode or shoot themselves in the foot at various times during the season. In 2018 it was a five-game losing streak that seemed to do the trick, and while they did rebound and make the Big Ten Tournament they ended up falling to Johns Hopkins by one goal in the semifinals. In 2019, Ohio State had one of the best starts in the country, boasting a 7-0 record heading into Big Ten play, but a 1-4 conference record, which included their first ever loss against rival Michigan, would hold them out of the postseason.
During the shortened 2020 season, Ohio State posted a 5-2 record and looked like they had all the tools to make a run in the Big Ten before things were shut down due to the Coronavirus Outbreak.
Heading into the 2021 season, there is a decent amount of hype building around this Buckeyes squad and an expectation that they will be able to compete for, at least, a Big Ten title this spring. The biggest aspect of this Buckeye team that needs to show up day in and day out if they do indeed want to find success and prove the doubters wrong in their defense.
During the 2020 season the Buckeyes were number one in the Big Ten and tied with Hofstra for the 18th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 10.14 goals per game. They also ranked 11th nationally in clearing percentage (.889%). With the talent they possess on the back end this season, Ohio State looks to have the ability to not only match these averages from last season but surpass them, and they could very well be the best, most dangerous defense in the Big Ten.
Ohio State reached into the portal and grabbed two grad transfers on goalie Alec Van de Bovenkamp from Furman and defenseman Eric Wenz from Hofstra. Both were multi-year impact players on the back end at their respective previous schools and should be strong contenders to start right out of the gate. In addition to those two grad transfer pickups, the Buckeyes return defenseman/LSM Jeff Henrick (19GB/7CT) for a fifth season and sophomore Jacob Snyder (5GB/5CT), who started all seven contests as a freshman last season. Ben Williams (3GB/2CT), who started four out of the five games he appeared in last season, should be a guy that gets some more time this upcoming season.
Two-way midfielder Ryan Terefenko (2G/4A/30GB) will all be returning for a fifth season and will be the leader of the Buckeyes’ short-stick defensive midfield unit once again.
On the offensive side, the Buckeyes return all five of their top scorers from a unit that ranked 17th nationally in scoring offense, averaging 13.86 goals per game.
Attackman Tre LeClaire (26G/6A) is back for a fifth season and looks to be the face of the franchise once again. A game changing playmaker, LeClaire has been a dominant offensive force for the Buckeyes since he stepped foot on campus as a freshman in 2017 and that shouldn’t change at all this spring.
In addition to LeClaire, Ohio State will return their other two starting attackmen in junior attackman Jack Myers (12G/17A) and senior Jackson Reid (17G/11A), in addition to senior midfielder Griffin Hughes (12G/4A), junior midfielder Johnny Wiseman (3G/6A), and sophomore midfielder Grant Mitchell (4G/4A).
Returning all of their starters and top contributors from a year ago, as well as multiple role players that should step up more this season, gives this Buckeyes offense a huge advantage. Not only does having that continuity and chemistry play a huge role, but being able to grow and take a step forward with essentially the same group around you from last season is huge and is one reason why we could see a drastic improvement from top to bottom on that end in 2021.
In addition to potentially great units on both ends of the field, they have one of the surest things in college lacrosse at the faceoff dot with senior Justin Inacio. Serving as Ohio State’s primary faceoff man since his freshman season, Inacio has been one of the best faceoffmen in the country. He was sidelined with and injury for the first three games of 2020, but put on very similar performances that we are used to seeing out of him in the four games that he did play. The Oakville, Ont., native went 72-for-110 (65%) overall last season.
While it isn’t expected that Ohio State will lean too heavily on freshman with all the veterans they return, there are multiple could see the field. The Buckeyes bring in the No. 28 recruiting class in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse. The class is highlighted by three IL top-100 players in St. Paul’s, Md., midfielder Logan Santos, Hill Academy, Ont., attackman Gerard Kane, and Lake Norman, N.C., faceoff man Drew Elder.