By: Sean Neidig, sports information graduate assistant
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Capital University Men's Lacrosse has put together a historic season that has culminated in the Crusaders hosting the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinals and a potential championship game as the OAC regular season champions and top seed. Capital and Ohio Northern University will face off on Purmort Field at Bernlohr Stadium on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Capital (15-1, 9-0 OAC) earned the top seed in this year's OAC Tournament, while Ohio Northern (12-4, 7-2 OAC) will serve as the four seed.
Junior CJ Hughes (Cincinnati, Ohio/Walnut Hills) heads the Capital attack and leads the team in goals, assists and points. Hughes' 60 goals are the most in the OAC and his 88 points rank second in the conference. Against OAC competition, Hughes has scored 34 times and 14 of his total 28 assists came in OAC games. Hughes is third in the conference with 141 total shots and his 96 shots on goal are second in the league.
Capital's secondary offensive threat, Ryan Rampi (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Darby), would be the go-to guy on many other teams but compliments Capital's deadly attack as the second option. His 38 total goals are second on the team and his 18 assists are the third-most on the team. The senior is 11th in the conference with 56 total points. Junior Luke Wyatt (Springboro, Ohio/Springboro) is third on the team with 30 goals and nine assists for 39 points.
Freshman Jack Scharner (Maineville, Ohio/King's) is second on the team with 20 assists and supplements Capital's attack with the help of Talbott Gottwals (25-10-35) and Barrett Naugle (21-13-35). Capital is 23rd in the country in goals per game with 15.27 and 29th with 24.20 points per game.
The Crusaders lead the OAC with an 8.16 goals against average and that number shrinks to 7.44 against conference opponents. One of the big reasons for that has been the emergence of senior and first-year starter T.J. Johnson (Champlin, Minn./Champlin Park) in goal. Johnson has made 159 saves between the pipes this season and leads the OAC with a 57.4 save percentage. Johnson has made 10 or more saves in 11 of Capital's 16 games, including a 16-save effort against Transylvania University (Ky.) on March 16.
In front of Johnson, Dylan Comella (Powell, Ohio/Olentangy Liberty), Connor Ryan (Westerville, Ohio/Olentangy Orange) and Christopher Yeager (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Darby) have patrolled the Capital defense and midfield. Comella and Ryan have each picked up 39 ground balls while Yeager has 37. The trio has caused 40 turnovers.
Ohio Northern is led offensively by junior Cameron Marcus with his 32 goals, 21 assists and 53 points. Senior Anthony Pavone is second on the team with 35 points (26-9-35).
The Polar Bears have the second-best defense in the conference with an 8.29 overall goals against average and an 8.67 conference GAA.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Since losing their first game of the season 8-7 in overtime vs. Kenyon College, the Crusaders have won 15 straight games, the longest winning streak in program history. Eight of Capital's wins have been by at least five goals and six have been by 10 or more. This is the second time in program history that Capital has navigated the OAC season with an undefeated record after the team went 6-0 in 2015. That year was also the first time Capital won the regular season title.
The Polar Bears also lost a close opening game as well but then ripped off a nine-game winning streak to get things on track. The winning streak ended on April 10 at Baldwin Wallace University and since then ONU is only 2-3. Ohio Northern's last game was an 18-10 loss at John Carroll University.
The Crusaders and Polar Bears met on April 19 at Ohio Northern with the Crusaders coming out on top 11-9 in Capital's second-closest OAC game of the regular season. Capital scored the first four goals of the game and never looked back from that point. Hughes led the Crusaders with four goals and an assist for a game-high five points. Johnson made 11 saves as the Crusaders pushed their winning streak to 13.
The Crusaders are 3-1 against the Polar Bears in their program history with the only loss coming last year on April 28, an 11-10 defeat. Over the four games, Capital has outscored ONU 48-33. This is the first time that these two teams have met in the OAC Tournament.
Senior (62+ years)/Military: $6.00
OAC student: Free
Non-OAC student: $3.00
OAC lifetime passes will be honored, OAC season passes are not valid for the tournament
Capital Visitor's Guide (parking, directions, hospitality, dining options, etc.)