Put one of the school’s most popular teams, a 10-0 record, a No. 2 ranking and an April afternoon together, and there could be a pretty sizable crowd at Koskinen Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m.
The men’s lacrosse team has not played a weekend home game while students were on campus since February, and tailgaters and local middle school students alike will likely crowd into the newly renovated stadium to watch Duke’s fast-paced attack face Ohio State.
“Now that the basketball seasons are unfortunately over for men and women, fans should come out for Duke and Ohio State,” Duke head coach Mike Pressler said. “We expect a good crowd, and it should be an exciting atmosphere.”
The expected rain, however, may put a damper on things and force Blue Devil fans to wait two weeks, when Duke will play Virginia—likely for the ACC title.
The two teams will enter Saturday’s game moving in different directions. Calling the Buckeyes the “best 2-4 team in the country,” Pressler said his team will not be looking ahead despite looming matchups with No. 1 Johns Hopkins April 8 and No. 3 Virginia April 16. He added that his team has derived much of its success from a one-game-at-a-time attitude.
But Ohio State head coach Joe Breschi is pitching the matchup to his team as a different type of tune-up. Ohio State is readying for conference play as a league championship is likely its only gateway into the NCAA Tournament, and Breschi hopes Duke will prepare his team for the lower-caliber competition.
“We have very little to lose, and we just hope to get better because they are more talented at every position,” Breschi said. “They to me are the best team I have seen all year without question. I think they should be ranked No. 1.”
When Ohio State beat Duke 16-7 in Columbus last season, the two teams were at very different places. The Buckeyes have lost a lot of their veterans and are a team struggling to integrate a host of young players. The Blue Devils, who start mostly juniors and sophomores, are more experienced now.
“After last year they learned a lot about their team and each other,” Breschi said. “For us, we have some young guys and we have some inexperience at different spots, but we are starting to come together as a group.”
Like many underdogs do against Duke, Ohio State will try to slow the game down when it can. Breschi said, however, he will still encourage his team to press forward in transition when they see openings.
For a team that has not beaten a top-20 squad all season and most recently fell to No. 20 Brown 10-8 March 26, winning faceoffs will be critical. Ohio State has won more than half of its faceoffs this season, relying primarily on sophomore Eric O’Brien.
Duke, which has improved its performance in the circle since 2004, lost the faceoff battle in last year’s game at Ohio State. “They throttled us a year ago,” Pressler said, adding that it was the team’s worst lost of a season that had numerous disappointing defeats.
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