No matter where Ben Randall ends up, Ohio always calls him back.
The Mason, Ohio native started both his college and Major League Lacrosse careers away from the state he is proud to call home, but he quickly found his way back. Both turns worked out for the better.
The Ohio Machine defenseman started his college career playing for America East stalwart Stony Brook. After two years on Long Island, Randall came home to play for Ohio State, where he thrived. He became the first defenseman in program history to be named to the prestigious USILA All-America team during his junior season.
His efforts during that season propelled Ohio State to its first Final Four, and it was their semi-final game against Towson that Randall still looks at today as one of the highlights of his career.
“We went down 7-3 in the first half and were able to come back to win 11-10,” recalls Randall. “I don’t think anybody on my team had a doubt that we were going to make it to the National Championship. No one was ready to go home and we went out in the second half and played exactly like that, pulling together to win the game.”
The Buckeyes may have fallen in the title game to Maryland, but Randall used the momentum from that run to have a stellar senior season. He led a defense that gave up the fewest goals in the Big Ten, while picking up 21 ground balls and causing 15 turnovers. He became the first Buckeye to earn USILA First Team Honors in consecutive years.
After that stellar senior campaign, Major League Lacrosse came calling. The Charlotte Hounds drafted Randall 14th overall in the 2018 draft, making him the first defenseman selected. But on June 19th, Randall and a future draft pick were swapped to the Machine for defender Matt McMahon. The move gave Randall the opportunity to play just 86 miles away from his hometown.
The move wasn't just great for proximity reasons. Randall hit the ground running, leading MLL last season with 19 caused turnovers and 31 ground balls.
Continuing his lacrosse career doesn't come without challenge. Randall tore his labrum during a high school game a few years back, and the lasting effects continue to impact his playing career to this day.
“The biggest challenge I’ve faced in my lacrosse career has been injury,” said Randall. “I’ve been dealing with the repercussions (of the high school injury) ever since. I’ve had to continue to put in extra work for rehab so that I’m healthy to play.”
But playing for the Machine is worth the extra effort. It gives Randall the chance to keep promoting the sport he loves in his home region. Lacrosse is just starting to ramp up in the state, and Randall hopes to show young players that you don't have to be from Maryland or New York to succeed in the sport.
“I would tell kids not to get discouraged if they aren’t from hot-bed areas,” said Randall. “I wasn’t very heavily recruited out of Cincinnati and things worked out pretty well for me. You just need to play to your strengths and that’ll help you stand out and get noticed.”
Encouraging the next generation is part of the reason Randall signed a three year extension with the Machine two weeks ago. The other reason? Well, he's not exactly sure he is meant to leave.
“It’s really cool being able to continue playing lacrosse in Ohio,” said Randall. It’s funny how I started my collegiate and professional careers else where and always found my way back. I think it’s a sign that I need to stay in Ohio.”