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Men’s Lacrosse: No. 19 Buckeyes begin conference play against No. 6 Rutgers Sunday

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Ohio State men’s lacrosse is 0-3 against top-10 teams this season, but Sunday’s first Big Ten matchup could get the Buckeyes back on track. Credit: Zachary Rilley | Photo Editor

Ohio State men’s lacrosse is 0-3 against top-10 teams this season, but Sunday’s first Big Ten matchup could get the Buckeyes back on track.

No. 19 Ohio State (4-4) will host No. 6 Rutgers (7-1) to open both teams’ conference play in a looming rematch. The Buckeyes and Scarlet Knights battled each other in last season’s Big Ten opener in which Rutgers won at home 18-7.

Head coach Nick Myers said the first eight games have flown by, and the Buckeyes are putting things together as all Big Ten teams are nationally ranked.

“We’re a team right now that’s getting healthy, getting focused and getting good days together — stacking on each other,” Myers said. “The conference as a whole has had a great nonconference year.”

Ohio State’s sole win against a ranked team was versus then-No. 19 North Carolina in mid-February. Since then, they’ve lost to four other ranked teams since Feb. 25 in then-No. 1 Virginia, then-No. 3 Cornell, then-No. 2 Notre Dame and then-No. 19 Denver.

Last game, the Buckeyes were down 10-4 at halftime and climbed back with six third-quarter goals. Ohio State ultimately lost 17-12 as they were unable to stop Denver on defense.

On the flip side, Rutgers has ranked wins versus then-No. 5 Loyola and then-No. 13 Princeton. The Scarlet Knights are led by a squad who find the back of the net quickly and often.

“Rutgers is a team that presents a number of challenges,” Myers said. “They’ve got a really good group on the back end.”

The Scarlet Knights come off a dominant 11-5 matchup against UMass where seven players each got a piece of the scoring.

This could mean trouble for Ohio State senior goalkeeper Skylar Wahlund once again. Wahlund’s save percentage ahead of Sunday’s matchup is 47.9 percent while Rutgers hits 62 percent of shots on goal.

Scarlet Knight’s senior goalkeeper Kyle Mullin has a save percentage of 55.8 percent, which is average at the collegiate level, but the Buckeyes have struggled against quality keepers.

“They get good goalie play,” Myers said. “For us, you’ve got to continue to focus on making ourselves better and then get as prepared as we can be.”

Sophomore attack Ed Shean currently leads the Buckeyes with 19 goals and a 70.4 shot percentage — the highest in the NCAA.

His equivalent on Rutger’s side is sophomore attack Dante Kulas, who is tied for first on his team in goals scored this season with 22. Myers said Kulas is certainly someone his team has been keeping an eye on, along with junior midfielder Jack Aimone.

“[They have] two really dynamic players both in the midfield and attack and a great supporting cast,” Myers said.

Last season, the Scarlet Knights downed the Buckeyes in New Jersey, but Buckeyes senior attack Colby Smith and graduate midfielder Kyle Borda each had a pair of goals. Both walked away from Denver with a hat trick a piece, so keeping that momentum from veteran scorers is crucial for the Buckeyes.

The Scarlet Knights outshot the Buckeyes 47-31 and led in ground balls 39-28 — two areas where Rutgers continues to be strong.

Myers said a conference win for Ohio State would be huge and give them confidence moving forward.

“It’s an outcome that you’re talking about. For us, we have to be very process driven in terms of what it is going to take to get that outcome,” Myers said. “There’s different keys in each phase of the game from defense, special teams, ride, clear, offense. And so, that’s where our mindset is.”

The Buckeyes hope to defend Ohio State Lacrosse Stadium under the lights against a top-10 conference foe. Myers said games like this are why “you come to Ohio State.”

The game will be televised nationally on Big Ten Network at 7 p.m.

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