It's a great time to be a Buckeye lacrosse fan! The team is 2-0, ranked, and has yet to suffer a headscratching loss out of nowhere to a team that has no being within 5 goals (hey, Hopkins, Syracuse).
After scraping by Cleveland State and burying the Terriers of Boston, Ohio State heads to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to take on the flagship school of that godfosaken place: UMass.
And it will certainly be an interesting matchup as the Buckeyes look to keep the win streak alive in their first road test against the Cinderella team of 2018.
Last year, UMass managed to sneak into the tournament by winning 11 games in a row. Their magical run was stopped short by eventual champion Yale, but UMass played stout lacrosse to the bitter end.
The Minutemen's 2019 campaign kicked off with an overtime loss to Army last weekend that was quite intriguing. UMass outshot Army 50-27, but only managed 11 goals against the Black Knights.
A shot percentage of 22% is unlikely to lead to a win at any point, but to nearly double up another team and still lose is pretty tough.
The UMass offense seems to be pretty balanced when it comes to shots, as 4 players had 6 or more shots, while 7 players had 5 or more shots against Army. In terms of points, however, the Minutemen were led by two underclassmen.
Sophomore attackman Chris Connolly (#10) had 7 points (2 goals, 5 assists) last week, while freshman Gabrield Procyk (#16) poured in 4 goals and an assist in the OT loss. Only one other player registered multiple points.
Much like the BU offense, most likely UMass will run through these two players. Hopefully the Buckeyes can keep UMass from having an incredible outburst like Boston had in the third quarter of last week's game.
Defensively, UMass looks to be stiffer than Boston, but probably not on the same level as the Buckeyes. Despite holding Army to just 27 shots, UMass allowed them to convert 12 into goals, for a shot percentage of 44.4%.
The Buckeyes have been operating a lot like Army, converting a great percentage of their shots, but taking fewer of them than their opponents. Against UMass, I expect Jack Jasinski to be the key to the whole offensive machine.
He's going to draw LSM Dan O'Brien (#4), most likely, who tied for the team lead with 3 caused turnovers. If Jasinski can continue to find natural sode shots, which he has really improved upon this year, then it is likely to be a long day for UMass.
If Jasinski struggles, we could see a tough slog of a game.
Special teams, after a single game for UMass and two for the Buckeyes, is hard to really gauge with much certainty, but neither team has really done much to have an advantage here.
OSU converted 1 of 3 chances last week, but went 0 for 6 in the opener. Really, the advantage may lie in penalties given, as the Bucks have committed six penalties in each game this season.
That is not good, even if the defense remains in flux right now. The Buckeyes need to be more disciplined so games aren't decided by cheap goals allowed.
On faceoffs, this week will be an absolute war. Justin Inacio turned things around a bit last week, going 15 for 25 and a winning percentage of 60%. UMass' Tom Meyers (#34) went 21-25 last week, for a winning percentage of 84%(!).
That's incredible, and really could do a lot to decide this game. Ohio State hasn't shown an inclination to pick up the pace all that much, so if they get down, UMass might be able to bleed the game dry.
Especially if the Minutemen manage to get 40+ shots and convert more than 22% of them. If the Buckeyes want to win, they'll need to get at least 55% of the faceoffs.
Goalkeeper may be the biggest unknown for the Buckeyes right now, and whomever starts should match up pretty well with Sean Sconone, the UMass keeper. Sconone had only 5 saves against Army, and 12 goals allowed.
If the Buckeye play their game, they should be able to get shots past him at their current rate. For the Buckeyes, it will be interesting to see who gets the start between the pipes in Amherst. Freshman Skylar Wahlund started agsinst BU, played well for the 1st half of the game, allowing just two goals, then completely fell apart in the 3rd quarter.
4 or 5 goals went in stickside high, which is just not acceptable at the D1 level. None were particularly hard shots, and he didn't look like he was getting screened, and yet shot after shot went in as he flailed at them.
Kirson came in and didn't exactly overwhelm with his play either, though the defense managed to clamp down a bit after getting shellacked in the 3rd. As a result, the competition remains wide open, and I have no idea who will win.
Wahlund looked great, then awful, and Kirson was a steady mediocre. If Wahlund gets consistency at a high level, he will start for years in Columbus. If not, then it'll be back to the drawing board once more.
This game will be decided between the pipes and at the faceoff X. I am much more confident in Inacio continuing to improve than I am in a solid goalie materializing out of the ether.
Additionally, it is the first away test for a pretty young team with defensive issues. This game will be close.
Final prediction: Buckeyes in a squeaker, 14-13, OT.