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UMass lax heads to Florida for contest with OSU

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian

Spring sports in the Northeast aren’t always pleasant to deal with. With temperatures still in the teens and snowfall constantly on the horizon, it’s difficult for coaches to plan their practice schedules.

Luckily for the Massachusetts men’s lacrosse team, a weekend trip to Florida is just what the Minutemen need to escape the harsh playing conditions of New England.

But this is no vacation.

UMass (1-0) will face no. 14 Ohio State this Sunday in the Moe’s Southwest Grill Classic in Jacksonville, Fla..

“Moe’s really puts on a great event,” said UMass coach Greg Cannella. “I think more than the weather, the kids are excited for the opportunity (to play) Ohio State.”

The Minutemen are coming off a 6-5 victory over Army last weekend, while the Buckeyes (0-1) fell 10-9 in their season opener against national powerhouse John Hopkins. Midfielder Jesse King scored five goals and an assist in the loss, and both UMass players and coaches know that stopping him is the first priority on defense.

Both Cannella and freshman defenseman Aaron Madaisky spoke highly of King as a player, and know how important it is to limit his looks offensively.

“Jesse King is one of the best players in the country, maybe even the best player in the country right now,” Cannella said. “You’re crazy if you don’t scheme for Jesse King, but they have plenty of other players, so we’re going to have scheme for their entire team as well.”

“I think our coaches have put in a great plan to stop (Ohio State’s) high powered offense,” Madaisky said. “King is a great player. I know he had five goals in their last game, so we just have to do a good job of slowing him down and making the rest of them beat us.”

Freshman Nick Mariano scored twice in his collegiate debut, along with a pair of goals from Grant Whiteway, and will once again be looked upon to get some quality looks on OSU goalie Greg Dutton. Dutton recorded 11 saves against Johns Hopkins while allowing 10 goals.

“I just have to play lacrosse,” Mariano said. “Our coaches have done an excellent job scouting them, so I just have to prepare myself the rest of the week and go into the game with confidence.”

The Minutemen only attempted 20 shots on net in their last contest against Army, whereas Ohio State was able to get off 35 in its season opener. Cannella was quick to point out that his team has to do a better job controlling the ball and making sure the offense continues to move the ball around.

Joe Calvello will have to play a critical role in the faceoff game, as the Buckeyes went just 5-for-24 in their game against the Blue Jays. Calvello was 6-for-13 during the last game for UMass. Cannella has preached all season long about how important it is for his team to win faceoffs, and knows that to win, his team needs as many offensive possessions as possible.

Goalie Zach Oliveri recorded eight saves in his last game, and will have his hands full all day with King and the rest of the OSU offense, which averages 35 shot attempts per game.

Opening faceoff between UMass and Ohio State is set for 9:00 p.m. on Sunday and will be aired nationally on NBC Sports Network.

Andrew Cyr can be reached at arcyr@umass.edu, and can be followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

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