The No. 12 Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team continues to face tough competition to start the 2011 season on Saturday, welcoming No. 15 Ohio State to Garber Field at noon in a battle between two NCAA tournament contenders.
The Minutemen (2-0) will look for their second win over a ranked opponent this year, but UMass coach Greg Cannella knows this will not be an easy task.
“Top to bottom this is a good team, a very strong team and obviously they’re coming off a great win so they’re [going to] be fired up,” Cannella said.
The Buckeyes (3-0) upset No. 3 North Carolina last Saturday, 13-8, in a back-and-forth affair.
OSU features a high-energy, well-coached and emotional style of play as it prepares for its first road game of the season. The Buckeyes defeated Detroit, 4-3, and throttled Mercer, 20-2 in their first two tests of the season.
The OSU offense features a potent attack, highlighted by sophomores Logan Schuss and Jeff Tundo. Schuss torched the Tar Heels last weekend with three goals and two assists, while Tundo added a goal and assist. Cannella believes the tandem make up “two of the better attackmen we’ll see [this year].”
Both possess great skills and have a tremendous knack for getting to the net. Schuss led the Buckeyes with 31 goals and 25 assists a year ago, thanks in large part to his size and toughness. Tundo, meanwhile, was second on the team with 20 goals and 15 assists. The Orchard Park, N.Y. native’s quickness and strong left hand make him a tough matchup; Cannella referred to him as a “bull.” The sophomore has ties to the UMass lacrosse program, as his brothers, Gene and Matt, played for the Minutemen in the early 2000s.
However, the firepower does not end there. Freshmen Tyler Frederick and Michael Italiano, along with senior Mike Pires, help complete an offensive cast that has posted an average of 12.33 goals per contest this season.
UMass will be coming off its triumphant second half at Hartford last Saturday, where the Maroon and White dug themselves out of a 7-5 hole to emerge victorious, 14-10.
Cannella stressed the importance of getting off to a fast start in this matchup, as well as every game this season, in order to prevent having to mount another comeback as they did last Saturday.
“You hope that you can put [together] 60 minutes out there,” Cannella said, hoping his team can match the Buckeyes’ intensity for the entirety of the game.
Junior Art Kell was instrumental in the Minutemen’s win on Saturday, as his eight-point effort earned him the CAA Lacrosse Co-Player of the Week and New England Lacrosse Player of the Week honors. The only returning attack from the 2010 season had six assists in the final 30 minutes to help propel the Maroon and White over the Hawks.
Will Manny kicked it up a notch in the decisive second half as well, tallying four goals in the frame. The sophomore, along with the rest of the UMass attack, will have their hands full against an experienced Buckeye defense.
Junior Keenan Ochwat and red shirt junior Matt Kawamoto anchor the defensive unit for the visiting squad, limiting the opposition to 21.3 shots and 4.33 goals per game thus far.
Freshman Greg Dutton will stand in between the pipes for Ohio State. The Timonium, Md. native was an All-American coming out of high school and was named the Defensive MVP of the Maryland State Lacrosse Coaches Association Senior All-Star Game. Cannella spoke very highly of the goalkeeper, calling Dutton “one of the top goalies coming out of high school.”
Saturday’s matchup will mark the first time the two teams will play in the histories of both lacrosse programs. Last year’s contest was called off after UMass could not make the trip to Columbus, Ohio due to poor weather conditions. Weather should not be a problem this time around, as forecasts are calling for clear skies on Saturday.
Stephen Sellner can be reached at email@example.com.