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COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the Ohio State University women’s lacrosse team a long 10 months of training is about to pay off as the 2018 season gets underway this weekend at No 10 Navy.
Ohio State looks poised to make some noise in the Big Ten as the top seven point scorers for the Buckeyes return, accounting for 87 percent of last season’s offense, and six of those women comprised the top goal scorers from 2017’s team. “We’re excited to watch the offense continue to develop their chemistry,” Ohio State Head Coach Alexis Venechanos said. “We believe that we have scoring threats all over the field and we’re confident in our ability to get the ball to those threats and capitalize on them. Having those building blocks in place is great, and McKayla joining the team adds a new wrinkle. She’s fitting in nicely along with some other newcomers that have stepped up early in practice.”
Venechanos is referring to McKayla Conti, a junior transfer from Louisville. Conti looks to find her place alongside Molly Wood, Lauren Sherry and Alex Vander Molen in the attacker corps. Wood paced the offense last season with 48 points, 42 of which came from goals. Wood’s team-high 71 draw controls in 2017 brought her career total to 188, just 34 shy of passing Katie Chase for the program record. Wood finished 2017 at fourth place in the Big Ten in both goals per game and draw controls per game, and she earned the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week award for her five-point performance in a win at Duquesne last season.
Vander Molen shined in her first year, playing in 13 games and scoring nine goals in the season. She came in at third on the team with 12 assists, and her 21 points finished in fifth place on the team. Sherry appeared in 11 games and scored two goals as the attacker helped facilitate the offense. Joining Sherry, Vander Molen and the rest of the attackers is freshman Sophie Baez, sophomore Jaclen Moxley, and juniors Alyssa Amorison and Sara Dickinson.
“Our senior leadership is top notch, all of these seniors are leaders both on and off the field,” Venechanos continued. “They’ve been here for four years and they know what it means to be committed to the team. Each of them live Buckeye lacrosse, and I’m excited to watch them lead this team into the season.”
That senior leadership is on full display on the defensive side as Shannon Rosati shifts from midfield to defense to join fellow senior Madison Castelein. Rosati finished the season in third place among field players in ground balls with 24, but that total leads all returning field players. Her eight caused turnovers rank fourth among the returning field players. Castelein finished just ahead of her with nine caused turnovers to go along with her 16 ground balls. A pair of juniors join the seniors on the defensive end with Meg Camden and Caroline Mackrides slotting into big roles. Camden tied Rosati with eight caused turnovers while snagging 11 ground balls. Mackrides caused seven turnovers while getting seven ground balls. Helping solidify that defense are freshmen Hannah Brink and Carli Mager, and sophomore Emily Skrzypczak.
A team’s defense can be strong, but if the goaltender can’t hold their own it’s all for naught. Luckily, the Buckeyes have one of the best young goalies in the nation, Jill Rizzo. “Rizzo has a poise and confidence beyond her years, and she brings an edge to our team,” Venechanos added. “She earned the starting spot last year, and she’s worked hard to keep it. Every day she comes in every day with a plan on how to get better. Those plans can range from how she’s working on certain exercises, to challenging the coaches, in a good way, to develop new ways for her to improve. She’s really found her voice this year, it’s a huge credit to her and all the work she puts in both on and off the field.”
Rizzo started 16 games for Ohio State as a freshman and her 183 saves ranked as the second most in the nation by a freshman. Her saves came in at tenth place all-time for a Big Ten goaltender in a single season. Rizzo’s 10.76 saves per game ranked eighth nationally, and she led the Big Ten with 52 ground balls. The freshman even earned some hardware during the season, bringing home the Big Ten Defender of the Week award on February 21 after her 11 save performance against Cincinnati helped seal a 17-8 win for the Buckeyes. Junior Paige Postalwait and senior Abigail Wise back up Rizzo in net.
The youth movement is taking shape in another area aside from the goal as sophomore Liza Hernandez and junior Baley Parrott lead the midfield. Hernandez was on pace for a fantastic year before an injury derailed her freshman campaign. Hernandez started all nine games prior to her injury and earned four consecutive Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards to start the season. Even with her missing a significant chunk of the season, Hernandez finished third on the team in goals with 21. Parrott started all 17 games for OSU and finished second on the team in both goals with 30 and in points with 38. She came in at third on the team with 25 draw controls, and her 12 caused turnovers also ranked third in 2017, but that total leads all returning field players.
Venechanos and her staff added depth in the midfield with freshmen Lindsay Epstein, Riley Ewing, Ali Beekhuizen, Jaclyn Perkins, and Katie McElveen joining the team this year. Returning midfielders include sophomores Kimberly Apuzzo, Sage Darling, Meghan Matey, Regina Doty and Sarah George. Juniors Erin Nagle, Hannah Gnatt, Mackenzie Maring, and Erikia Keselman help bolster the midfield, while seniors Emalee Mongno and Katie Burgee round out the midfielders.
“We’ve got a challenging road ahead of us,” Venechanos finished. “The Big Ten is loaded with great teams, and we’re playing a final four team from last year to start the season. But I believe in this team, I know they’ve got it in them to compete with anybody.”
The Buckeyes head to Annapolis, Maryland to open their season at No. 10 Navy this weekend. The season opener is set for a 1 p.m. start on Saturday.