Maryland products give Ohio State an edge in NCAA lacrosse tournament

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Sports,College,Kevin Dunleavy,Terps

Ten players from state lead No. 3 Ohio State

With 10 players on his roster from Maryland, including four starters and two faceoff specialists, Ohio State lacrosse coach Nick Myers jokes that he is thankful for Southwest Airlines' direct service from Columbus to Baltimore.

"It's been a big positive for us," Myers said on Wednesday. "We tell [recruits] that they're just an hour from home."

Players from Maryland have figured prominently in the rise of the Buckeyes, who are seeded in the NCAA tournament for the first time. In the quarterfinals at Byrd Stadium on Saturday, when No. 3 Ohio State (13-3) faces unseeded Cornell (13-3), it will be an appropriate homecoming for the Buckeyes' Maryland connection.

NCAA quarterfinals
Buckeyes vs. Big Red Orange vs. Bulldogs
When » Saturday, 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Where » Byrd Stadium, College Park
TV » ESPN2

"Getting to play back home where people really know the game -- they've watched it their whole lives and most kids have played it -- it's exciting," goalie Greg Dutton said.

The junior from Calvert Hall, a starter since the second game of his freshman year, is one of several Maryland products who made an immediate impact upon arriving in Columbus. Senior Trey Wilkes (Urbana) was the primary faceoff man as a freshman. Junior defender Joe Meuer (McDonogh) was fourth on the team in ground balls in his rookie season.

This year, freshman attack Carter Brown (Calvert Hall) has 27 goals and 15 assists, freshman defender Robby Haus (Gilman) has started all 16 games and freshman Kacy Kapinos (Loyola) has won 59.1 percent of his faceoffs as a backup to Wilkes.

According to Myers, he has found players from Baltimore's private school league, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association, to be the most advanced in the nation.

"An MIAA player brings a certain degree of lacrosse IQ that I think is unmatched," Myers said. "A guy like Robby Haus comes to us and he just knows the game. He's got awareness. What he lacks in physical attributes, he makes up for in savvy. You can't teach that."

Another local player who considers Saturday a homecoming is sophomore midfielder Dave Planning (Gonzaga), who has 16 goals and nine assists.

Ohio State has thrived by plucking players from a variety of lacrosse hotbeds. Its top two scorers, senior Logan Schuss (43 goals, 26 assists) and sophomore Jesse King (30 goals, 22 assists), are from British Columbia.

"We've got to beat the bushes to find good lacrosse players," Myers said.

After going 31-31 in Myers' first four seasons, Ohio State took a significant step forward this year, beating five NCAA-bound teams, including Denver and NCAA defending champion Loyola in the ECAC tournament.

One of the biggest differences has been on faceoffs. After Ohio State ranked last in the ECAC in faceoff wins (46.4 percent) last season, Myers hired former Johns Hopkins faceoff specialist and volunteer assistant Jamison Koesterer to handle the unit. This year, Wilkes has won 58.5 percent to rank 12th in the NCAA.

"I think that was my biggest offseason recruit, to be honest," Myers said of Koesterer. "He's really brought out the best in Trey."

Koesterer, who played for two national championship teams at Hopkins, is just another Baltimore-area recruit who has paid immediate dividends for Myers and Ohio State.

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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