Mix together Michigan as the opponent and Ohio Stadium as the game site, and you have a special combination for an Ohio State athlete no matter what the sport.
The Ohio State men’s lacrosse team will revel in such an opportunity on Saturday when it plays Michigan in the Showdown in the Shoe at 11 a.m. to be followed immediately by the football team’s spring game.
“It’s an incredible stage,” lacrosse coach Nick Myers said. “It’s one that humbles you and reminds you how special it is to be a Buckeye. Our kids really appreciate that.”
Four years ago, a crowd of 29,602 set an NCAA regular-season and on-campus attendance record for men’s lacrosse when the Buckeyes defeated Air Force before the spring football game.
Attendance is recorded at halftime of the men’s lacrosse game. More fans see the second half as they show up early for the spring football game — an event that Ohio State set a national attendance record in 2009 with a crowd of 95,722.
“To be part of something much bigger than yourself is really admirable,” Joe Meurer, a senior defenseman and co-captain of the lacrosse team. “To be in front of thousands of fans in the Shoe and to have them cheering for you is something everyone looks forward to.”
All fun aside, the Buckeyes (4-6) need a victory to continue the momentum they have gained by winning their past two games and three of four after starting the season 1-5. Saturday is the first of three consecutive Eastern College Athletic Conference games to end the regular season.
“Can we play our best lacrosse down the stretch in conference play?” Myers said.
Inexperience and injuries — including the loss of goalie Greg Dutton, a senior co-captain, for the season because of concussions — marred the first half of a year in which Ohio State was pegged as the preseason favorite to repeat as ECAC champions.
Myers credits his team for not panicking when it stood 1-5 and instead continuing to work hard. The payoff has been better results on recent scoreboards.
“It’s a maturation process,” Myers said. “In the last 10 days, we’ve found a little bit of consistency, finally.”
The Buckeyes, who made it to an NCAA tournament quarterfinal last year, produced a season-high for goals on Sunday in a 15-9 win at Delaware for their second straight victory.
“There have definitely been a lot of injuries,” Meurer said, “but at the same time, a lot of guys who may not have gotten the opportunity to play have stepped up.”
After facing Michigan (4-8), the Buckeyes play Air Force at home and have a game at Fairfield. OSU then plays host to the ECAC tournament May 1 and 3, with the winner of that event at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium earning an automatic NCAA tournament spot.
“The guys understand everything is in front of us,” said Meurer, a native of Towson, Md. “We have a lot of good opportunities ahead if we continue to focus on fundamentals in practice and continue to work hard. If we do that, good things can come our way.”