FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — In the world of college lacrosse, 2017 was the year that America discovered Columbus.
“I think that we’ve certainly been on the map,” a prideful coach Nick Myers said after his Ohio State team lost to Maryland, 9-6, in the NCAA final Monday to conclude the Buckeyes’ first trip to the Final Four. “This was a big step.”
For the school from Columbus, Ohio, it was “a heck of a ride,’’ said goalie Tom Carey, who made 13 saves and was voted to the All-Tournament team.
It was a journey that began when the school started playing men’s lacrosse in 1953, but the program was stuck in neutral for decades behind the big-time sports of football and basketball at The Ohio State University. But after Myers took over in 2009, progress accelerated. The No. 3 Buckeyes (16-5) made the NCAA Tournament in three of the last five seasons and recorded their first quarterfinal and semifinal victories this year.
“Obviously, it wasn’t the way we wanted to finish,” Carey said of his collegiate finale. “But there is a lot of pride left in that locker room that I know is going to carry on the next couple of years.”
Carey’s work in the cage prevented Maryland from pulling away. The Terps led 5-2 at halftime and 8-3 early in the fourth. But Carey made nine second-half saves and Ohio State scored three straight goals — by Jake Withers, Tre Leclaire and Johnny Pearson — to add some drama to the final minutes.
“We’ve been in that position a couple of times before,” senior midfielder Tyler Pfister said. “So being able to fight back the way we did was something that wasn’t necessarily new to us. We caught fire there for a little bit and that belief was definitely kindled again. We’ve got the players and we’ve got the belief.”
That wasn’t always the case, but this year’s team, according to Myers, was determined “to extend May. We had a team meeting after the Big Ten championship [a 10-9 loss to Maryland on May 6], and I met with the seniors,” the coach said. “They said, ‘Here’s what the next 3 1⁄2 weeks are going to look like.’ And the day before the selection show, there was no one in that locker room that didn’t think we were going to play another three weeks.
“I truly believe that we belong here on this stage in the Final Four weekend,” Myers added. “And I believe we will be back.”
Ohio State’s champion ship hasn’t sailed.