There was mostly silence Sunday night in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center when the name Loyola popped up on the twin jumbo television screens as Ohio State’s first-round opponent in the NCAA men's lacrosse tournament.
It wasn’t that the Buckeyes were worn down after a long weekend of playing in the Big Ten tournament but was simply a show of respect for the Jesuit school in Baltimore with an enrollment of 4,000.
The last time the teams met was in the East Coast Athletic Conference tournament semifinals in 2013, and Ohio State scored 10 straight goals to win 18-11 for its first win in seven games in the series.
Buckeyes coach Nick Myers knows what he and his team are getting into going into at 5 p.m. Sunday in Ohio Stadium. Loyola is in the tournament for the 24th time — the 22nd time in Division I — and won an NCAA title in 2012.
The Greyhounds enter with the lacrosse version of a Heisman Trophy candidate in sophomore attack Pat Spencer. He is one of five finalists for the national player of the year award.
“This is a team that was in the Final Four a year ago,” Myers said. “They have a player of the year candidate in Spencer, so he’s a guy we certainly have to identify and contain. They are a good transition team. They have a stingy defense and they have a good faceoff (specialist) and a good goalie. We’ll have to be strong early to establish our game plan, and we have to finish in the fourth quarter.”
Spencer, who is 6 feet 2 and 190 pounds, has 27 goals and a single-season Patriot League record 55 assists. Defenseman Ben Randall is expected to get first shot at trying to slow down Spencer.
Loyola, though, is so much more than Spencer. Brian Sherlock and Alex McGovern each have 24 goals, Zack Sirico has 21 goals and Jay Drapeau 20. Five others have eight or more goals.
Myers’ philosophy all season, though, has been for his players to concentrate on their game.
“We’ve put in a lot of work all year and this is one of our goals,” senior attack Austin Shanks said. “We’ve got to take a look inside ourselves. They are a good team, but we’ve got to come out and play our game strong.”
Loyola (10-5) qualified for the NCAA tournament by defeating Holy Cross 13-3 in the semifinals and Army 13-4 in the championship game to claim its third Patriot title in the four seasons.
Ohio State (13-4) was all but assured a spot in the NCAA tournament going into the Big Ten tournament. A 15-13 victory over Johns Hopkins in the semifinals earned it a first-round home game and a hard-fought 10-9 loss to top-ranked Maryland secured the No. 3 overall seed.
“It’s a place where we’re undefeated this year,” senior midfielder J.T. Blubaugh of DeSales said of Ohio Stadium. “We’re comfortable in our home stadium. They are a really good team. When you get to this part of the season everybody single team is good. You do your due diligence to play well on game day. They have a good offense and one specific player (Spencer) we’re looking to try to eliminate his game a little bit. We accept the challenge.”
Myers got the ’13 and ’15 teams into the NCAA tournament, but he has taken a particular liking to this team.
“We have a great group of seniors and we’re fighting to extend our season,” he said. “At this point you just want to be together for another week.”