Before being acquired by the Ohio Machine in this year’s Expansion Draft with the 121 st overall pick, former OSU alum Eric O’Brien has been making his mark on the Ohio lacrosse community coaching high school lacrosse for the past five years. This season marks O’Brien’s third year as the head coach of the Olentangy-Liberty Patriots.
In 2011, the Patriots finished 13-5, including a seven-game winning streak before losing to Worthington-Kilbourne in the playoffs. O’Brien credits the win streak to a difficult decision he made in the middle of the season.
“Early in the season we suffered a blowout and didn’t react well to it,” said O’Brien. “We lost focus and I had to make several mid-season cuts that led us to our win streak. From a school standpoint I’m not allowed to make cuts and I’ve never done that before but I was a young coach and it worked out in the end.”
Despite losing 15 seniors, O’Brien has high expectations for the upcoming 2012 season. “We want to win the conference then focus on each playoff game one by one,” said O’Brien. “But we always keep our standards high and winning the State Championship will always be our main goal.”
In order to repeat last year’s late season success, O’Brien will have to retool an offense that averaged 16 goals per game and replace five starting attackmen, who combined for 170 goals last season. Senior attackman Corey Menninger will be at the forefront of the new attack unit. “Menninger stepped up as a junior and is an unbelievable dodger and feeder,” said O’Brien.
Sophomores Patrick Bruck, Tucker Sexton and senior Brody Blaine will also compete for a starting attack position. “Bruck is one of the hardest workers on the team and as far as attitude goes you have to love the kid.” Senior Cole Hutchison, who took a leave of absence last season due to concussions, looks to return and add depth to the unit.
Because of this brand new offense, O’Brien is looking to focus more on the team’s transition game from defense to offense. “As far as defense goes, we were down last season but we now have an anchor in goal,” said O’Brien. “Last year we focused equally on offense and defense, and this year I expect to focus more on defense especially from a midfield standpoint.”
The midfield is led by the team’s lone senior captain Austin Bull. Bull is the team’s catalyst at face off, winning 70% of his face offs last season. “Austin is our anchor and workhorse. “He’s a strong bull dodger and he puts a lot of goals in the net.” Austin King, who is also a Olentangy-Liberty soccer player, brings speed and a strong lefty shot to the Patriots midfield.
Junior twins Jake and Shane Rakich also look to add depth to the midfield position. Shane will alternate playing time at both midfield and attack with senior Zach Lando. “Lando, with a little change in work ethic this spring, could be one of the top offensive players to come out of Ohio in 2012,” said O’Brien.
Senior goalie Tyler Stark, who’ll be relied upon to lead the defense, will help guide senior defensemen Kyle Todd and Austin Fenstermaker, along with first year varsity defenseman Kyle Wagner, around the field throughout the 2012 season.
The Machine begins its 2012 inaugural season on the road for its first two games then returns to Columbus for the 2012 inaugural home opener on May 19 against Rochester Rattlers. Season tickets start at only $100 and are available by calling (614) 754-1973 or visiting www.theohiomachine.com/tickets.