A lot has been made about lacrosse outsider Ohio State elbowing its way into the NCAA Final Four that has been dominated by Eastern teams such as Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Maryland, Virginia and Duke since the tournament started in 1971.
The Buckeyes, though, have nine born-and-bred Ohioans on the 45-player roster. Three are starters.
Third-seeded Ohio State (15-4), which faces Towson (12-4) in a national semifinal at noon today in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, has been the melting pot of the tournament with players from 14 states and two Canadian provinces.
“When we watch NFL games, there will be Ravens fans and Seahawks fans and Patriots fans — fans of just about every team — and the Canadian guys like whatever football they play up there,” senior goalkeeper Tom Carey said. “Absolutely, we’re a melting pot.”
How diverse is Ohio State?
Towson, for example, has a roster made up of 26 players from Maryland. Then come New York with five players and New Jersey with three.
Carey, who is from New Canaan, Connecticut, was a starter at Bryant University in Rhode Island, but transferred out of lacrosse country to Ohio State.
“The academics got me to come here, but I also wanted to play against the best knowing that Ohio State was moving into the Big Ten — the big stage — with Maryland, Johns Hopkins, Penn State and Rutgers,’’ Carey said.
Ninth-year coach Nick Myers said his staff doesn’t recruit like blindfolded men throwing darts at a corkboard.
“We said, ‘Listen, we’re not going to settle — we’re not going to settle on the field or in classes or certainly not in recruiting,’” he said. “I challenged my staff to evaluate the best players that North America has to offer. Every one of these guys has a different story. Whether you are from Alabama, Maine, Ontario, (British Columbia) or right here in Ohio, we want to find the right people for Buckeye lacrosse.”
The Buckeyes seldom can sign the McDonald’s high school All-Americans of the sport.
“This isn’t a roster that is littered with Under Armour All-Americans or top-50 players,” Myers said. “These are players who fit our mold.”
Two of the team’s best players, leading goal scorer Tre Leclaire and face-off specialist Jake Withers, are from Surrey, British Columbia, and Peterborough, Ontario, respectively. There are four other Canadians on the team.
“We have a pretty good pipeline from Peterborough to Ohio State,” Withers said. “Everyone knows Coach likes his Canadians. Six years ago, Brock Sorensen from Peterborough played here. I knew him well. I went on a recruiting trip and I’m here.”
But how did sophomore attacker Jack Jasinski, who is from Paul “Bear” Bryant territory in Birmingham, Alabama, find his way into lacrosse and to Columbus?
“Football is pretty big down there,” said Jasinski wryly. “My brother, Jacob, is trying to walk on to Auburn in football. Lacrosse always has been my sport. There were only eight or nine high schools playing it at the time in Alabama, so I played club. We’d go to Atlanta just to get games.”
Ohio State coaches spotted Jasinski at a North Carolina team camp when he was in high school.
“North Carolina was looking at me as a possible walk-on,” he said. “I’m a late-bloomer. I didn’t start playing until the eighth grade. The Ohio State coaches invited me to prospects day and I played well and received a scholarship offer.”