February 23, 2012

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Ohio State Wants to Back Up Early-Season Upset

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com

Ohio State will be tested in the next few weeks, facing UMass, Penn State, Virginia and Notre Dame. But all those games are in Columbus.
© Gray Quetti 

A year ago, the Ohio State men's lacrosse team was feeling good about itself, and rightly so. By scoring a significant upset victory over North Carolina, the Buckeyes moved to an impressive 3-0 start, and appeared to be on their way to a memorable season.

Alas, Ohio State stumbled badly in midseason and limped home with an 8-8 finish after getting thrashed in the first round of the conference tournament by Denver.

The Buckeyes have done it again by beating a top 10 opponent to start the 2012 season, and they have a 3-0 record. By coming from behind to beat fifth-ranked Denver, 10-9, in its ECAC opener on Sunday, Ohio State has produced the first major upset of the year in Division I. But this time, the Buckeyes sense they are in it for the long haul this spring.

It's no secret the Buckeyes, under fourth-year coach Nick Myers, have notable talent, from junior attackman Logan Schuss (52 points in 2011) to versatile midfielder Dominique Alexander (24 points in 2011) to senior goalie Greg Dutton (8.35 goals allowed average) to senior Matt Kawamoto, the reigning ECAC defensive player of the year.

But Myers said the team's maturity and unity of purpose clearly set it apart from the 2011 version. Before the fall season, the Buckeyes went on an overnight team retreat and later came up with a self-policing policy that includes a ban on alcohol during the week. And players have further committed to performing in the classroom and the community.

"Every team is different. This team really focused on the fundamentals of team building in the fall," said Myers, who added the Buckeyes have performed 540 hours of community service, with a goal of reaching 600 hours, while maintaining a 3.1 grade point average as a team.

"The question is, how are we going to respond this time to a little bit of success early in the season?" Myers added. "The players are very aware that this team has not been to the [NCAA] playoffs since 2008. We want people to be talking about us in May, not just in February."

"We've been trying to make a lot of changes around here. We've put in some rules that have kept us healthy and fresh," added senior defenseman Joe Bonnani, a co-captain. "It's a bit of a culture change. We've been known to get off to good starts. We don't want to fade away this time."

Ohio State will be tested in the coming weeks by UMass, Penn State, Virginia and Notre Dame – all in Columbus. The Buckeyes do not play on the road until they face Loyola in Baltimore on March 31.

Fiorito Determined to Finish Career in Postseason

Princeton senior goalie Tyler Fiorito had dreams of adding to the Tigers' six national championships when he signed on to play at the Ivy League school that came of age on the lacrosse field under former coach Bill Tierney.

It hasn't worked out that way. As he heads into his final season, Fiorito, one of the better goalies in the country, has earned exactly one postseason victory in his career and has yet to participate in a final four event.

He also is thrilled that the nightmare of 2011 is behind Princeton. Last year's 4-8 finish was marked by an incredible run of injuries, including season-enders to attackman Jack McBride (now a graduate student playing at North Carolina), midfielder Mike Chanenchuk (now at Maryland), defenseman Rob Castelo, midfielder Tyler Moni and defensive midfielder Nick Fernandez.

On top of that, Tigers head coach Chris Bates lost his wife, Ann, to a long battle with cancer on November 30.

"It just seemed like nothing went our way. We try not to even mention last year," Fiorito said. "There is definitely a sense of urgency to make this season special, in honor of Mrs. Bates and in honor of Coach and [his son] Nick. There is so much for us to play for."

The Tigers, who have emerged from the preseason healthy, get the ball rolling officially on Saturday against Hofstra.

"We seniors came in here with high expectations. I came in hoping to get to a few final fours and win at least another championship," Fiorito added. "Now it's the first game week of the last season I'll ever play at Princeton. We don't want to graduate from Princeton until we've accomplished some special goals."

Georgetown-Navy Series to Renew

This year will mark the first time Georgetown has not played Navy since the schools began squaring every year, starting in 1991. Hoyas coach Dave Urick expects the series to renew next year. One definite factor is his friendship with Navy first-year coach Rick Sowell, who spent eight years as a Georgetown assistant under Urick, beginning in 1990.

"There are a lot of reasons we should continue to play Navy. For starters, they are right down the street," Urick said. "Another reason is I am as close to Rick as I am to anybody. He used to babysit my kids."


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