After nearly a year, the Hopkins men’s lacrosse team was finally able to return to playing Big Ten games on Homewood Field. On Saturday, the team faced off against the Ohio State University Buckeyes. The Blue Jays were expecting a challenge, as the Buckeyes are currently ranked 10th in the nation while Hopkins is ranked 20th. Additionally, this was the debut of new head coach Peter Milliman after the departure of Dave Pietramala in April of last year.
Senior attackman Connor DeSimone appreciated the return to playing official lacrosse games.
“Every day is a blessing being on Homewood Field,” he said. “We could not be more grateful for the opportunity this university, our coaching staff and our athletic department have given us to play the sport we love.”
The season opener started off close. Hopkins came out with a pair of shots, but neither hit the back of the net. A later turnover resulted in Ohio State scoring the first goal of the game two minutes in. After several back-and-forth possessions, Hopkins took a trio of shots with the third one hitting the mark and tying the game. DeSimone, who was starting for the first time at attack, scored the first Hopkins goal of the season.
Despite the close start, Hopkins started to lose control of the game. In the remaining eight minutes of the first quarter, the Blue Jays were helpless against the Buckeyes’ offensive onslaught. Ohio State scored four unanswered goals, bringing the score to 5-1 by the end of the quarter. Each goal was scored by a different Buckeye.
The second quarter began with Hopkins trying to close the scoring gap. Junior midfielder Evan Zinn started with a shot on goal, but it was saved by Ohio State goalie Skylar Wahlund. Less than a minute later, Ohio State extended their lead to five. At 6-1, Hopkins had now allowed five unanswered goals over a period of over 10 minutes.
After a successful face-off, the Blue Jays continued to try to apply offensive pressure. DeSimone finished the play with a goal, his second of the season. The lead was now back to only four points with 12 minutes left in the first half.
Four minutes passed with no scoring from either side. Graduate student goalie Josh Kirson made several saves to prevent the lead from growing. Despite this effort, Ohio State was able to score the next goal, bringing the score to 7-2. The Buckeyes utilized their momentum and added on two more goals.
Things looked grim as the Blue Jays were down by seven with less than two minutes until halftime. Thankfully, junior attackman Joey Epstein scored his first goal of the season to give Hopkins some hope. When the end-of-period buzzer sounded, the score was 9-3 in Ohio State’s favor.
DeSimone discussed the team’s slow start to the season.
“Ohio State is a great team and very well-coached,” he said. “With that being said, it was our first game, we have not had a Fall Ball and had an interrupted preseason due to some COVID-related issues. We have a huge learning curve and just want to be better every time we step on the field. The X’s and O’s are going to come with time and more practice, but we still can control our effort and how hard we play.”
The third quarter started off slow, again featuring several saves from Kirson. Nevertheless, Ohio State once again scored as their score reached double digits. It seemed like the second half would be no different from the first.
At this point, Hopkins had had enough. In the remaining 10 minutes, the Blue Jays’ defense did not allow a single goal while the offense scored three unanswered. The goals were scored by junior midfielder Garrett Degnon, DeSimone and senior midfielder Jack Keogh. DeSimone now had his third goal of the day. The third quarter ended 10-6.
A pattern appeared to be developing, as the fourth quarter again started with a save from Kirson, and again, Ohio State soon scored anyway. The teams traded goals for the next four minutes. The score was 12-8 with nine minutes left thanks to goals from senior midfielder Brett Baskin and graduate student midfielder Cole Williams.
Although Hopkins had brought the score to within four several times, they were never able to close the gap that was created by the Buckeyes’ first quarter run. Ohio State scored two more goals for good measure and the game ended 14-8.
DeSimone led the team with his three goals. Kirson finished with 13 saves, two more than the Ohio State goalie. One key difference-maker seemed to be shots on goal; while the Buckeyes had 27, Hopkins only had 19.
DeSimone looked ahead toward the rest of the season, reflecting on his individual and team goals.
“Individually, I just want to be a leader on the field and do the best I possibly can for my teammates,” he said. “As a team, it is a Big Ten championship and national championship, but for now we are going to focus the next day of practice on being better than we were the day before.”
Hopkins and coach Milliman begin the season with an 0-1 record. The Blue Jays will look to bounce back against the University of Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Feb. 27.