Feb. 9, 2005

The 2005 edition of the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team, a NCAA tournament qualifier the last two seasons, enters the new campaign with a young but determined squad. With four returning starters, the Buckeyes, under eighth-year head coach Joe Breschi, look to defend the Great Western Lacrosse League titles the team has won the last two years, including the outright crown in 2004.

“We have set the standard high for our lacrosse program over the past few years and 2005 is no exception,” Breschi said. “There are several young players who will gain valuable experience early and fill the holes left by a fabulous senior class. We will work hard to find the right chemistry on the field and prepare the team to defend our conference championship.”

On Attack
Although the Buckeyes lost two of their leading scorers in 2004 All-GWLL selections Anthony Gilardi and Shaun Lyons, Ohio State returns two of the top four scorers from a year ago, senior Kyle Olson and junior Ben Wolff. Olson, who finished second on the team last year with 31 points and had a team-high 24 goals in all 16 games, is the top returning scorer. Wolff had a break-out year last season, finishing fourth on the team with 27 points and ranking fourth with 20 goals. Also expected to make an impact in 2005 is junior Craig Nolan, who had 17 (13-4) points a year ago in 15 games (including two starts).

Junior Justin Doran was limited to just five games last season, but should play a bigger role in the Buckeye offense this campaign. Junior Gary Bining played in 13 games last year and was second on the team with four man-up goals, adding three assists. Sophomore Ben Drake, who played in four games last season and also may play midfield, and sophomore transfer Jon DeCanio also could see time on the Ohio State attack, as could senior Lance Vitt and redshirt freshman Greg Baggan.

“The key to the attack unit is to find a quarterback to replace Anthony Gilardi from last season,” Breschi said. “We have several guys who will make a positive impact and control the tempo offensively.”

In the Midfield
At offensive midfield, three-year starter and two-time All-GWLL second-team choice Tom Randisi, who posted 20 goals and 26 points last season and is in his second year as a team captain, will be the leader. Junior Andrew Bender, who had 12 goals and 15 points in 16 games as a sophomore, and redshirt junior Jason Bloom, who was third on the team with eight assists and had 12 points in 13 games, are expected to be the top Buckeyes in the midfield.

Returnees junior Josh Wittenberg (8 gp, 2-0-2 in 2004), sophomores Jason Lutz (15 gp, 5-3-8), Eric O’Brien (7 gp, 1-0-1) and Jeff Buck (3 gp) and freshman Kevin Buchanan should see time as well.

“The midfield unit is our deepest group in the last several years, led by preseason All-America candidate Tom Randisi,” Breschi said. “If needed, we could play nine guys and not lose a beat from top to bottom. The challenge is finding out which three guys work the best together on each line. We will push the tempo offensively as we’ve done in the past and challenge these guys to run the field and play defense.”

On Defense At close defense, the Buckeyes look for senior captain and 2004 All-GWLL second team honoree Peter Frantz, a two-year starter, to lead the way and help fill the void left by the loss of two-time All-American and three-time first team all-league pick Greg Bice. Frantz has started 29 games in the last two seasons for Ohio State, including all 16 last year. Junior Brian Yontz, who played in all 16 games as a sophomore and started 10, and sophomore Jeff Schneider, who saw action in all 16 games in his freshman campaign, also will be relied on to guide the Buckeye defense.

Other Buckeyes who will see action on close defense include sophomore Tim Pataki, freshman Charlie Billingsley, junior Patrick Dunleavy and sophomore Wes Kemme.

At the long-stick middie position, Ricky Pages is expected to step in and contribute as a freshman. Schneider could see time at the position, as well as sophomore Jon Blashford and junior Steven Tittl.

Senior Chris Brown, who has played in 39 games as a Buckeye, and redshirt-senior John Dauro, who played in all 16 games a year ago, will be the leaders at short-stick defensive midfield this season. They will be joined at the position by sophomore Chris Li (12 gp in 2004) and freshmen Josh Funk and Chris Freil.

“The close defense is an athletic group led by the stellar play and leadership of Peter Frantz,” Breschi said. “With only one starter returning, I expect every defensive player on the roster to challenge for playing time. The defensive midfield unit is experienced with Chris Brown and John Dauro leading the charge.”

In the faceoff X, four Buckeyes will fill the role, led by Dauro, O’Brien, Li and sophomore Jon Rydberg. Dauro, with 60 career faceoffs, has the most experience coming into the season.

Between the Pipes
In net, the Buckeyes must replace four-year starter and two-time GWLL Player of the Year Tony Russo, but have a strong trio battling for the starting spot. Redshirt-freshman Mike Rimmer, redshirt-sophomore Drew May (who saw limited minutes in two games last season) and true freshman Bill Curry all could see action in net this year.

“Coach (Jay) Stalfort has done a tremendous job of preparing these three guys for the spring season,” Breschi said. “When you lose a two time All-American in the goal, most people would say you need to rebuild that position. We have tremendous confidence in Drew, Mike and Bill and the most consistent player in the preseason will be named the starter for game one.”

The Schedule
The Buckeyes face a tough schedule this season, with five teams on the slate that ended last season in the Top 20 nationally and another two who were receiving votes in the national poll. The team opens the year at Penn State, before playing host to 2004 NCAA runner-up Navy. After the game against the Midshipmen, the Buckeyes travel to face UMBC in a game that will be televised live on ESPNU.

Next, OSU will play home games against Hobart and Quinnipiac before five of their next six games are on the road. The team travels to face Brown and Duke before opening league play against Butler April 9. OSU returns home to face Robert Morris and, after a trip to Colorado to take on league foes Denver and Air Force, closes out the regular season with home games against Notre Dame, Fairfield and Army.

“This will be our most challenging schedule in the last eight years. We play nine teams ranked in the preseason Top 25. I’m confident these young men will rise to the challenge and prepare themselves mentally and physically for another run at the conference championship and a third trip to the NCAA tournament.”