March 22nd, 2013

Knights LAX to do battle with No. 8 Ohio State

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer


Knights LAX to do battle with No. 8 Ohio State
Bellarmine defensman Sean Joyce controls the ball / file photo from bellarmine.edu

Forget March Madness, Saturday will be a special night on the Bellarmine University campus, and in particular at Owsley B. Frazier Stadium.

The Bellarmine lacrosse team (6-1, 2-1 ECAC) will host No. 8-ranked Ohio State University (5-2, 0-1) at 7 p.m. It will be the first night game in the history of Frazier Stadium and is being advertised as an official “Black Out” event. All fans are asked to wear black for the game and black-out T-shirts will be distributed.

Though the fans will have a festive theme for the game, the contest itself will feature two of the best teams in the powerful ECAC. The Knights will face perhaps their sternest test of the seasonagainst a high-powered Ohio State offense that averages 10.7 goals per game.

“It’s going to be a great game and this is going to be a huge test for us,” Bellarmine head coach Kevin Burns said. “We’re just excited to play someone who is in the national spotlight and that may shine a little light on how our program is playing right now. They’ve beaten a ranked Virginia team and they played Denver tough, so we’ll definitely be able to gauge where we are as a program with this game.”

Even though the Knights lost to defending national champion Loyola 8-6 in Baltimore on March 2 — a big-game opportunity that Burns admits his team may have let get the best of them — the coach believes that the game against the Buckeyes could open the eyes of national critics concerning Bellarmine’s 6-1 start.

“All their guys are big, strong and fast,” Burns said of the Buckeyes. “They get use of the weight rooms and strength training programs and dietary plans that the rest of the student-athletes there use. Dominique Alexander is a phenomenal athlete and is built for this new style of game.”

Alexander is an imposing figure at 6 feet 2 and 215 pounds and has speed to burn. The senior midfielder is the key to Ohio State's transition attack. He plays a defensive midfield position but gets the ball from his end of the field to the offensive end in a hurry.

The Knights will have to be aware of OSU senior attack man and co-captain Logan Schuss, who leads the team with 16 goals and 24 total points. A third-team All-American in 2012, Schuss has been the key to the Buckeyes’ attack this year. Along with Schuss, sophomore midfielder Jesse King (15 goals, 22 points) will be critical to contain.

“Schuss has taken 20 more shots than the next-closest guy on the team and he’s a big-time finisher,” Burns said. “He’s big, strong and has a great lefty shot. Schuss and King have taken 99 of the team’s 246 shots. We’re going to have to throw the kitchen sink at them defensively because they’re so good and so quick.”

The sting of a 13-2 loss in Columbus last season has fueled the Knights’ preparation for this matchup. Perhaps overmatched a bit at several positions in that game, Bellarmine is looking to make amends Saturday night.

Two keys for the Knights: goalkeeper Dillon Ward, the nation’s leading net-minder who is stopping 72.5 percent of the shots he sees, and a veteran group of attack men led by junior attack Cameron Gardner (19 goals, 22 points), senior midfielder and playmaker Karsen Leung (six goals, 17 assists for 23 points) and seniors Michael Ward (12 goals, 18 points) and Lance Robinson (11 goals, 19 points).

“Cam (Gardner) is one of smartest players on and off the field and he hasn’t forced his offense all year,” Burns said. “And Karsen has gotten his shot back a little bit and that’s big for us. He provides another goal-scoring threat for us. We’re going to have to beat them with ball movement and crisp passing.”

It will take a big effort from the Knights to defeat a team that has wins this year over nationally ranked opponents like Penn State and Virginia. But with a solid defense, the nation’s top goalkeeper in Ward, who allows only 6.6 goals per game, and an offense scoring 10.3 goals per game, the Knights are in prime position to earn some national recognition that a win over Ohio State could bring.

“I love Dillon and our defense in any matchup,” Burns said. “We’re going to need to play solid and feed off our crowd and the support we get. It’s a big step forward for us as a program. We look forward to the opportunity in front of a packed house at Frazier Stadium.”

 

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