February 21, 2011

Monday Morning Midfielder: Ohio State Helps Myers Shed Shadow of Mentor

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

Ohio State sophomore attackman Logan Schuss scored three goals and added two assists Saturday in the Buckeyes' 13-8 upset of No. 3-ranked North Carolina at Ohio Stadium.

Ohio State men's lacrosse coach Nick Myers can't help but reconnect with his past or consider the future, even when there's so much to savor at present.

Two days ago, the Buckeyes earned arguably the biggest win in program history, certainly the biggest since Joe Breschi left for North Carolina. Unranked Ohio State defeated Breschi's third-ranked Tar Heels, 13-8, on Saturday to improve to 3-0 and likely earn a spot in this week's USILA Division I top 20 rankings. The victory came just 12 days after the Buckeyes managed just four goals in an ugly win over Detroit Mercy in their season opener.

A 20-goal performance against start-up Mercer helped in between, but Myers' new practice philosophy, borrowed from the vaunted Ohio State football program and coach Jim Tressel, does not allow the Buckeyes much time to get too low or high on themselves. Ohio State follows Saturday games with Sunday film and conditioning sessions. Rather than spend Sunday morning on their futons watching "Jersey Shore" reruns, the men's lacrosse players "get to revisit the game while its fresh in their head," Myers said, "and guys that played in the game can work some of that soreness out." The players get Monday off. "We just traditionally have not had good Monday morning practices. They're tired, sore and talking about something that happened 48 hours ago."

Sunday practices also help limit the risk associated with celebrating triumphs such as Saturday's with raucous parties.

"Certainly curbs the appetite, no doubt about it," Myers said Monday. "There were a lot of wet sweatshirts yesterday. Humble pie, as we call it here."

The new practice schedule is just one way in which Myers has made his mark on a program that had Breschi's indelible fingerprints all over it when he took over in July 2008.

Myers spent five seasons (interrupted by a two-year stint at now-defunct Butler) as Breschi's assistant coach at Ohio State before Breschi left for UNC, his alma mater, after the 2008 season ended in an NCAA quarterfinal loss to Duke. Myers' brother, Pat, is now Breschi's top assistant at North Carolina and is largely responsible for assembling the current freshman class that includes studs like Nicky Galasso and Mark McNeill.

Nick Myers knows something about recruiting too. Continuity at the helm did not keep former Ohio State and current Washington Bayhawks star Peet Poillon from transferring to UMBC, or several coaches from dropping the Buckeyes from their schedule. Myers even lost a few recruits who expected to play for Breschi.

But Logan Schuss kept faith. He's the latest Canadian making headlines in the U.S., thanks to a three-goal, two-assist performance against UNC. His one-handed, over-the-shoulder goal with his back to the cage Saturday was a thing of beauty, and distinctly West Coast in its flair. It tied the game at 5 midway through the second quarter and keyed a decisive 8-1 run in the Ohio State victory.

"Nothing he does right now surprises anyone in this locker room or this coaching staff," Myers said of Schuss, a sophomore attackman who last year became the first Buckeyes freshman to earn All-American honors on the heels of 31-goal, 25-assist campaign. "When he arrived we had high expectations for him and Jeff Tundo. A lot of what we do on our offense is predicated off those two lefties at the attack position."

Myers met Schuss at a box lacrosse game in British Columbia, courtesy of former Ohio State player and assistant coach Gary Bining. Though Schuss never played the American field lacrosse camp circuit, Myers trusted Schuss' abilities and Bining's recommendation.

Not to mention his own pedigree and instincts.

A Division III All-American at Springfield College, a school with international recognition as a pioneer in physical education and that has produced several current college lacrosse coaches, Myers led the Pride to a 16-2 mark and NCAA tournament berth with 52 goals and 39 assists in 2001. He met Breschi through his younger brother, Pat, then an Ohio State standout.

The brothers speak daily, Myers said, mostly about Nick's newborn son Mason or the family, seldom about lacrosse. Despite Ohio State's landmark win Saturday, Nick Myers said he met it with mixed emotions, considering the closeness to his brother and Breschi.

"You feel good for the kids who worked hard and earned this quality win," Myers said, "but at the same time you hate to do it against two people you care about so much."

For now, Ohio State can leave the rivalry on a high note. The Buckeyes and Tar Heels have decided to discontinue their annual regular season meeting in favor of a fall scrimmage in Baltimore that will be coupled with a dinner and fundraiser for the Michael Breschi Scholarship -- organized by US Lacrosse and awarded annually to two high school players who are sons and daughters of coaches. The scholarship honors Breschi's son, Michael, who was 3 when he was struck by a car and killed in the parking lot of the Columbus, Ohio, preschool he attended, and the lacrosse community's support of the Breschi family.

"It's over," Myers said of the regular season series. "We're going to scrimmage. We're going to root for each other 365 days a year instead of 364... We're going to quit beating each other up. Hopefully next time we meet, it will be in the playoffs."

It could happen this year. Ohio State's brutal, non-conference schedule continues Saturday at UMass. It will be the first-ever meeting between the Buckeyes and Minutemen, and Myers' first time trolling the sidelines at Garber Field, a notoriously difficult place to play for visitors.

"I grew up with a 'Garber Gorillas' t-shirt when I was a kid," Myers said. "My stepfather introduced me to Dick Garber. He's a legend in the game."

When Breschi's departure caused some coaches to drop Ohio State from their schedules, UMass head coach Greg Cannella signed up for a home-and-home series, Myers said. Dave Pietramala, Jeff Tambroni and, of course, Joe Breschi, were other coaches Myers credited with helping him when he took the Buckeyes' reins at age 29.

After UMass, Ohio State will play Penn State, Lehigh, Albany, Virginia and Notre Dame before the ECAC season.

Said Myers: "We're going to find out what we're made of."

WEEKEND'S BEST

Player: Zach Brenneman, Notre Dame

Neither Duke goalie, Dan Wigrizer or Mike Rock, had the answer for Brenneman's booming shot from the midfield Sunday, as the sixth-ranked Irish avenged their 2010 NCAA championship game loss with a convincing 12-7 victory over the fifth-ranked Blue Devils in the main event of the Sunshine Classic at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Fla. Brenneman finished with three goals and two assists.

"We took advantage of their goalie being in the sunlight," he said. "We thought we could score on long shots, and it worked to our advantage."

Honorable mentions: Mark Manos, Drexel; Art Kell, UMass; Will Manny, UMass; Logan Schuss, Ohio State; Andrew Irving, Notre Dame; Kitty Cullen, Florida (women); Lauren Schmidt, Stanford (women); Sarah Kuhlman, High Point (women); Marlee Paton, Loyola (women)

Game: Hobart 9, Robert Morris 8

Hobart has had some down years and may have hit bottom with the recent announcement that it would not be eligible for postseason play in 2011 due to NCAA violations regarding player eligibility dating back to 1994. The Statesmen were down five late in their season opener against a dangerous Robert Morris team that just last week nearly upset North Carolina. Hobart trailed 8-4 with 14:31 remaining, but took advantage of several Robert Morris penalties to rally. Chris Pedersen's goal with 1:42 left cemented the comeback and sealed an impressive win for the Statesmen, who will visit eighth-ranked Cornell on Saturday.

Honorable mentions: Loyola 9, Navy 8; Stanford 11, Syracuse 10 (women)

Quote: Dave Urick, Georgetown

"It is nice to see how quickly they built this program in such a short time," Urick said of Jacksonville after Georgetown's 15-12 victory over the Dolphins in the Sunshine Classic. "Hopefully this will be an incentive for other programs to start up programs. I have heard that Marquette and Michigan are looking into starting programs. It is good for the game."

While Marquette has already announced its new Division I men's lacrosse program, and tabbed current Hofstra assistant coach Joe Amplo as its head coach, rumors continue to swirl around Michigan, the three-time defending MCLA Division I champion.

Get on with it, Wolverines. That first Ohio State-Michigan game will be a high-water mark for college lacrosse.


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