Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.
Saturday afternoon, the bear – in the form of a Cornell team sporting an ursine logo – got the Ohio State men’s lacrosse team.
Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the third-seeded Buckeyes, as Cornell raced out to a 6-1 first-quarter lead and pulled away to a 16-6 decision in the NCAA quarterfinals in College Park, Md.
The loss came one week after OSU’s second-ever NCAA tourney win and ended the campaign one game short of the popular semifinals to be held over Memorial Day weekend in Philadelphia.
Still, head coach Nick Myers was philosophical about the progress made by Ohio State, which hosted and won its first NCAA tournament game in Columbus one week ago and also captured its first ECAC postseason title.
“The loss is disappointing, but I want to start by saying congrats to a Cornell team that played a great game,” the fifth-year head man said. “Secondly, I couldn’t be prouder of our family, our Buckeye lacrosse team. These young men have worked their tails off. They stepped up to every challenge we put in front of them.
“We’re going to celebrate this year. They came up short today, but we’re very proud of the way they’ve worked both on and off the field.”
Steve Mock scored seven times, all in the first half, for the Big Red while Rob Pannell moved into second place in the NCAA career annals with eight points to boost his four-year total to 347.
Meanwhile, Cornell won 16 faceoffs to OSU’s 10 and dominated groundball victories, keeping possession for most of the game then using its lethal offense to shred the Buckeye defense.
“They’re averaging 15 goals a game for a reason,” Myers said. “They have guys that can put the ball in the back of the net. It’s not necessarily one guy that hurts you. I think early in the game, they just had more possessions. If you give a team like that a lot of opportunities to get in a rhythm, they can find it. We struggled a little bit to come up with some loose balls on the faceoffs, and that was key.”
Jesse King scored twice for Ohio State, which also got single tallies from all-time leading scorer Logan Schuss, Turner Evans, Adam Trombley and David Planning. Schuss and fellow senior Dominique Alexander each had two assists.
Ohio State had given up double digits in goals only four times this season and had not ceded more than 11 in a single game, but Cornell had that mark by halftime.
Mock started the scoring just 32 seconds in when he got free right in front of the cage and buried a pass from Connor Buczek.
Planning buried a strong shot from the wing at 12:29 to tie the score but Buczek bounced in a shot to give Cornell the lead for good with 7:40 left. From there, Mock scored three times in a 1:25 span to really put the Buckeyes behind the 8-ball.
It didn’t get much better from there, as the Buckeyes simply could not stop Mock in the first half. The senior scored a pair of goals seven seconds apart to set the halftime margin at 11-3, and his seven first-half goals set a career high for the man who entered tied for second in the nation in tallies in 2013.
“They just had a lot of weapons,” said OSU goalie Greg Dutton, who stopped just eight of 24 shots on goal. “You can game plan, but you get out there and there’s adversity … they’re a great team and a great offense. They’re explosive, and they were just really clicking today.”
King scored twice in short order early in the third but Ohio State could not convert on an ensuing man-up chance, and Pannell got his first goal of the game just seconds later to make it 14-5.
From there, it was largely academic for an Ohio State team that continued to build attention for its sport in the capital city but will have to continue to wait to reach the sport’s biggest stage.
“I’m definitely proud to call myself a captain and a senior on this team,” said Schuss, who finished his career with 146 goals. “We had a team that not many thought was a contender a couple of months ago. We really came through adversity and got to one of the top stages.”