Feb. 10, 2003

As it is every year, the goal of the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team is to win the Great Western Lacrosse League title and earn the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. This season, head coach Joe Breschi will look to his 10 seniors to lead the way.

“Our senior class is very strong mentally and physically and they are tremendous athletes,” Breschi said. “They work hard and do a great job of leading the team on and off the field.”

Breschi is looking for his squad to come together as a team to be successful.

“We’ll have fun and work hard,” he said. “We want to be the best team possible.”

Between the Pipes
In goal, the Buckeyes have experience in third-year starter Tony Russo. An All-GWLL second-team selection last season, he was second in the nation in save percentage (.634) and fifth in goals-against average (7.16).

“Tony’s confidence should be soaring,” Breschi said. “He came into his own nationally last year. It’s important for him to play a more vocal role in leading us on the defensive end of the field this season.”

Backing up Russo will be junior Jon Miller, who saw action in four games last year, posting a goals-against of 6.86 and a save percentage of .667. Redshirt freshman Adam Brooks also could see time in net.

The Buckeyes have a core group of experienced defenders that will be counted on to lead a defense that will see a number of new players.

“We’re pretty young on defense,” Breschi said. “Our defenders will work hard to develop and become a strong unit.”

At close defense, the Buckeyes will look to junior Greg Bice, a 2002 First Team All-GWLL selection and three-year starter, and senior Matt Cafarelli to lead the squad.

“Bice is one of the premier defenders in the country,” Breschi said. “He’s a tremendous athlete with awesome lacrosse skills.

“Cafarelli started a number of games last season,” Breschi said. “He will have to step in and continue to improve. We’re relying on him heavily to share the workload.”

Senior Sean Ireland, junior Mike McKenna, sophomore Peter Frantz and freshman Patrick Dunleavy will battle for playing time on defense.

At defensive midfield, the Buckeyes will look for different players to contribute and help push an up-tempo style. Returning are fifth-year senior Pete Dillon, who received a medical redshirt last season, junior Josh Lesko and sophomores John Dauro and Chris Brown.

There will be a battle among a number of young Buckeyes for the longstick middie position. Among the candidates are freshmen Brian Yontz and Jared Olson and sophomore Charles Smith. Breschi will look to play the most consistent members of that group, focusing on the players who play great team defense and can run the field in transition.

On faceoffs, senior Anthony Kelly, one of the best in the nation at the position, returns for his senior season. He was 11th in the nation in faceoff win percentage last season (58.8). He has led the Buckeyes in groundballs in his first three seasons with the team.

“Anthony could be the premier faceoff man in the nation,” Breschi said. “He’s invaluable to our offense. You’re only as successful as your faceoff guy and we have faith he’ll keep improving.”

Lesko also is expected to contribute in the faceoff X. Last season, he won 61-of-105 draws (.581).

The Buckeyes return their entire starting unit at midfield – senior Pat Myers, junior Ryan Laffey and sophomore Tom Randisi. Myers earned All-GWLL first team honors and posted 23 points last season. In his first season with the Buckeyes, Randisi posted 18 points, including 12 goals, while Laffey had eight goals and 10 points.

“Our first midfield has great experience,” Breschi said. “We have confidence they’ll get the job done.”

There are a number of other midfielders competing for spots, including seniors Nick Miceli and Bryan Mulford, junior Shaun Lyons, sophomore Jason Bloom and freshmen Andrew Bender, Nick Williams and Josh Wittenberg. Of that group, Breschi will see who steps to the forefront and makes an immediate impact to determine playing time.

Ohio State also returns all three starters on attack. All three – Curtis Smith, Mike Norton and Anthony Gilardi – earned All-GWLL honors last season, with Smith receiving first team accolades. The trio provided the offensive punch for the Buckeyes in 2002. Smith led the way with 50 points, including a team-high 38 goals, while Gilardi ranked second in goals (32), assists (14) and points (46). Norton led the squad in assists with 25. The production of the trio is crucial to the Buckeyes’ success this year.

“Smith is our finisher,” Breschi said. “We’re looking for him to dodge more and create more this season. He gets opportunities generated by the rest of our offense and he needs to finish.

“Norton is the quarterback of the offense,” Breschi said. “He’s a fourth-year starter and he gets better every year. He is the distributor and directs the offense.

“Gilardi can play with the best in the country,” Breschi said. “He’s a tremendous talent across the board – he can score and feed.”

Other Buckeyes Breschi expects to see playing time on attack are senior Pat Donohue (11-4-15), sophomore Lance Vitt and freshmen Craig Nolan, a member of the U.S. team that will compete in the 2003 International Lacrosse Federation Under-19 World Championship, and Ben Wolff.

The Schedule
The Buckeyes, ranked 19th in the Inside Lacrosse Preseason Coaches Poll, have six Top 25 teams on their schedule, as well as seven teams that received votes in the preseason poll. The squad will play all but one of its non-conference games to start the season before getting into Great Western Lacrosse League play April 6. Among the non-conference teams on the slate are No. 9 North Carolina, No. 14 Navy and No. 20 Army at home. The squad will close out the regular season against No. 16 Penn State May 3.

“We have a competitive schedule this season,” Breschi said. “We have a chance to win every game. The team has come a long way and put themselves in this position. We’re proud, but not satisfied, of that fact.”

The Buckeyes will use the early season games to prepare for the conference season. This season, Ohio State will face Notre Dame and Fairfield at home and travel to go up against Air Force, Denver and Butler.