By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Penn State men's lacrosse (2-1) aims to keep the Creator's Trophy in its trophy case with a matinee with No. 16 Ohio State (3-0) on Saturday at 1 p.m.
The Nittany Lions took home the inaugural Creator's Trophy last season in a battle between three Big Ten schools, Penn State, Michigan and Ohio State. The trophy goes to the team that wins both games against the other schools. Penn State is half way there, defeating Michigan 11-6 to open the season.
Penn State has had success over Ohio State recently with a 6-4 record over the past ten meetings. The Nittany Lions visited Columbus, Ohio last season and came out with a 5-2 victory. Sophomore midfielder Michael Richards (Skaneateles, N.Y.) said the fate of the trophy lies in the team's hands.
"It is a statement game for us knowing that they are a rival of our and that we are playing for the Creator's Trophy," Richards said. "Knowing that the trophy is already in our building is a huge positive for us. If we had to send that trophy to another school it would be devastating for us."
The Nittany Lions are amid a five game stretch playing top 25 opponents. Ohio State will be the third consecutive ranked opponent Penn State this season. The Buckeyes bring a high-powered offense into Happy Valley, having outscored opposing team 41-22 so far this season.
Richards said that the team needs to tighten up on defense to prepare for Ohio State's offense. Penn State needs to be more disciplined, but practice has helped the team adjust.
"Going against our offense every day and how high powered they are definitely helps us out," Richards said. "It shows us what we need to work on every day."
Penn State and Ohio State have a lot in common in terms of their personnel, strong goaltending and a balanced attack on offense.
Ohio State is led by senior attackman and preseason second team All-American, Logan Schuss, who has netted 10 goals and dished out five assists to begin the season. He is joined up front by freshman Carter Brown, who is making a name for himself with six goals and eight assists early in the season.
Penn State flaunts a freshman-senior duo as well. Senior Jack Forster (Jenkintown, Pa.) has scored nine goals already this season. He teams up with freshman TJ Sanders (Orillia, Ont.) and junior Shane Sturgis (Downingtown, Pa.) to form a potent scoring attack that scored 25 of Penn State's 35 goals this season. Forster led the Nittany Lions with a hat trick in last week's overtime loss to No. 3 Notre Dame.
Saturday's game will once again feature a battle of the goalkeepers. Second team All-ECAC goalie Greg Dutton is eighth in the nation with a 7.07 goal-against average. Facing a top-flight goalie can be intimidating, but focus will be key for the offense.
"Knowing that he's a highly ranked goalie makes me focus even more," Richards said. "I know that if I don't put the ball in a good spot he's going to save it and start the transition the other way."
Opposing Dutton on the other side of the field for Penn State is junior Austin Kaut (Morton, Pa.). Kaut has been a rock for Penn State between the pipes and brings a calming presence to the defense. His ability to make crucial saves and then spark Penn State's lethal transition offense is what makes him a spectacular goalkeeper. Kaut is allowing 9.21 goals per game, good for twenty-fourth in the nation.
Kaut and Richards chemistry on clears is a major reason why Penn State is operating at .951 clearing percentage. Both players are the major reason for the early success of the transition offense. Richards' speed and vision allow him to take the ball into the offensive end by himself and open space for his teammates.
"That's the biggest part of my game," Richards said. "We work on that every day making sure that we get goals off of transition. With the change in the rules, the game is so much faster that you have to convert on those opportunities."
Penn State and Ohio State is sure to be a fast paced game with no shortage of scoring. Richards said it may not be goals and saves, but the things not on the score sheet that will make the difference.
"We need to focus on the little parts of the game like groundballs, hustling and getting the ball off the ground," Richards said. "If we do that, we should be successful."
Richards, Lions Eye Creator's Trophy
By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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