The Ohio State men’s lacrosse team has been on the precipice of qualifying for the national semifinals of the NCAA tournament three previous times but fell short in the quarterfinals on each occasion. The Buckeyes lost to Duke, 21-10, in 2008, Cornell, 16-6, in 2013 and Denver, 15-13, two years later.
Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup with Duke in Hempstead, N.Y., presents Ohio State its fourth opportunity in program history to make it to the semifinal round.
“We’ve been here once before in the Elite Eight – I was a sophomore,” senior midfielder JT Blubaugh said. “We lost kind of a heartbreaker to Denver. We were up five or six points at halftime and ended up getting beat. Getting over the hump, I think we did that this week, hopefully. I think we worked really, really hard and had a really good practice week.
“It’s going to take every guy on the sidelines, it’s going to take every guy on the field to achieve that and we’re so excited for the challenge. We’re hours now from hitting the field and just trying to do our best and get to championship weekend, which is the dream obviously.”
Ohio State (14-4, 3-2 Big Ten) defeated then-No. 13 Loyola, 7-4, Sunday while Duke (13-4, 3-1 ACC) handled then-No. 9 Johns Hopkins, 19-6, Saturday to advance to the quarterfinal round.
Should the third-ranked Buckeyes prove victorious against Duke, the sixth-ranked team in the country, they would play the winner of a quarterfinal game between No. 2 Syracuse and Towson at noon or 2:30 p.m. May 27 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. The NCAA championship game will be held May 29 in Foxboro.
“The quarterfinals, it’s that next win you’re certainly seeking to get to championship weekend,” head coach Nick Myers said Thursday. “I think you have to kind of put that aside and focus on what’s going to get you there. Which is a great week of practice, great preparation, attention to details. And this group so far has really owned that, not to say the team’s in the past that have been here hadn’t.
“I’ve been really impressed with this group’s workmanlike effort this week. It feels like another week. It doesn’t feel different. Maybe a little bit more coverage, a few more interviews than normal. But for the men, it’s been business as usual and I’m just really proud of the way they’ve managed that and excited about getting our one more day tomorrow of preparation and certainly playing Saturday.”
Senior midfielder Jake Withers believes his team has the horses to make it to the semifinals.
“Coach Myers puts us in a good position to be successful every year,” Withers said. “The pieces have been there this season and we’ve put ourselves in a really good position. We’re hoping to make some history here going to the first Final Four in program history. I think we have the team to do it and we have the support of Buckeye Nation and the whole Columbus community. We’re hoping we can make some history. Not only go to the Final Four but bring a national championship back to Columbus."
The game between Ohio State and Duke will be televised live on ESPNU at noon ET.
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