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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State battled its way to a hard-fought season-opening victory this evening with a 13-9 win over the pesky Catamounts of Vermont (0-2) at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, improving the Buckeyes to 7-0 all-time in openers under head coach Alexis Venechanos.
The Buckeyes pulled out the victory behind some savvy play from a mixture of veterans and freshmen playing in their very first collegiate game.
Senior Morgan Fee scored four points (2G, 2A) to lead the Buckeyes and junior Molly Wood added two goals and a game-high eight draw controls. Freshman Liza Hernandez led the Buckeyes with three goals and added an assist while Alex Vander Molen scored a goal of her own and also added two assists on the night. In goal, freshman Jill Rizzo made seven saves to earn her first collegiate win.
“Credit to our newcomers and to our returners for giving them the courage to step up and be brave,” Venechanos said. “We have a lot of people we feel comfortable with right now. Rizzo did a great job keeping us in the game, made some smart decisions, made some good saves and obviously Alex and Liza played great as well. But we also had great play and great leadership from our sophomores, juniors and seniors which was nice to see.”
Vermont led early on, 3-2, when Becca Olsen scored at 16:53. But a little more than a minute later, Vander Molen found a cutting Hernandez in front of the net on a man-up opportunity to spark a 7-0 run. The Buckeyes eventually led 9-3 late in the first half behind two first-half goals each from Wood, Fee and sophomore Baley Parrott. Vermont snapped the Ohio State run when Molly Little scored with 44 seconds remaining, making it 9-4 at the half.
The second half was a different story, at least at the start, as the Buckeyes struggled to generate the offensive firepower they displayed in the first half. And Vermont took advantage, scoring the first four goals to cut the lead to one, 9-8, with 12:42 left.
The Catamounts would win the next draw and had an opportunity to tie, but were turned away by Rizzo and the Buckeye defense. After an Ohio State clear, Venechanos then called timeout to regroup her squad and score the next four goals – the first two by Hernandez – to regain control and secure the win.
“Liza has been doing a great job for us and this game we thought she had a great matchup,” Venechanos said. “Her teammates love playing with her, we wanted to keep putting the ball in her hands. She makes great decisions and did a great job feeding the ball and scoring when she needed to. I thought that surge from she and Alex and our attackers and defenders getting the ball down there was really important for us. Those couple plays I think gave us some comfort and we were able to build from that.
“This first game, we’re trying to figure out what our identity is. I thought we showed resiliency in what was a game of runs. We had a great run in the first half, but then in the second we couldn’t buy a goal. I thought our defense hung tough and gave our offense opportunities to pick it up in the last 10 minutes of the game. So I’m proud of that. It wasn’t the cleanest, Vermont played great, they threw a lot at us that we didn’t see but I’m happy we were able to convert when we needed to.”
Maring and Parrott each had two goals for the Buckeyes while junior defender Shannon Rosati added one for good measure late in the game. Defensively, senior co-captain Meredith Bushell and Rosati each recorded three caused turnovers while the Buckeyes forced 20 as a team.
Little, Meredith Moore and Brynne Yarranton each scored two goals for Vermont while Maddy Kuras made 11 saves in goal for the Catamounts.
Ohio State now hits the road for its next game at Jacksonville Sunday in the Sunshine State. Game time is 1 p.m. ET.
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