No. 8/10 Ohio State Faces No. 14/15 Stanford, Niagara
Senior defender Taylor Donahue.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- No. 8/10 Ohio State returns home this weekend to face No. 14/15 Stanford and Niagara on consecutive days in Columbus. Both games will be played at the Woody Hayes Indoor Facility. The Buckeyes will face the Cardinal at Noon Saturday, Feb. 28, before welcoming Niagara at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 1. Both games can be viewed online on Buckeye Vision for a small fee at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.
Saturday is the team's Buckeye Strong Cancer Awareness day with pink giveaways in recognition of cancer survivors. Sunday is Youth Day and will feature a Fun Run `cool down' after the game with players for youth.
A Glance at the Buckeyes
The Buckeyes are 4-0 for the second time under fifth-year head coach Alexis Venechanos and will be looking to tie their best start since going 5-0 in 2012. The program's best start to a season came in 2002 when Ohio State started 6-0.
The Buckeyes opened the season with home wins over Detroit (19-4) and Binghamton (18-5) before posting road wins at Winthrop (20-12) and Virginia Tech (14-7). The Buckeyes are ranked No. 8 and 10 in the Inside Lacrosse and IWLCA Top 20 polls, respectively.
Ohio State leads the Big Ten in several statistical categories early on, including goals per game (17.7), assists (8.0), ground balls (19.0), points (25.7), shots (35.5) and shots-on-goal (29.2), among others.
Ohio State has 15 players with at least one goal this season, led by senior Katie Chase who leads the Big Ten with 18 goals (4.5 per game) on the season and also is tied for the team lead with eight ground balls and leads with 15 draw controls. Senior Jackie Cifarelli leads Ohio State with 21 points and is second in the Big Ten with 15 assists (3.75 per game). She also has six goals on the year. In the win at Virginia Tech, Cifarelli became Ohio State's all-time assists leader, now with 140.
Junior Cian Dabrowski (15 pts, 11g, 4a) and junior Rainey Hodgson (13 pts, 7g, 6a) and are third and fourth, respectively, in points for the Buckeyes while senior Mary Kate Facchina also has double-digit points with 11 on nine goals and two assists.
Defensively, senior preseason All-American Tori DeScenza is second in the Big Ten with a .562 save percentage. She has 27 saves on the year.
As a team, Ohio State has done a great job securing possession with 48 of 54 successful clears while forcing 75 opponent turnovers on the defensive end.
A Look at Stanford
The Cardinal are 2-0 on the season and ranked No. 14 and 15 in the IL and IWLCA Top 20 polls, respectively. They are coming off a 12-10 win over No. 12 Notre Dame Feb. 20 in Palo Alto
Stanford is led on offense this season by sophomore attack Kelsey Murray, who leads the Cardinal with 12 points (6g, 6a). Junior midfielder Lucy Dikeou (5g, 2a) and junior attacker Alexandra Crerend (5g, 0a) are tied for second with five goals apiece. Senior attacker Rachel Ozer, a second-team IWLCA all-region honoree last season, led Stanford with four goals in the win over the Irish.
Stanford is coming off a 14-5 season in 2014, having reached the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five years. They returned eight starters and more than 90 percent of its goals from last season. The top seven goal-scorers are back, including Ozer (34g, 13a in 2014). Stanford also features senior midfielder Hannah Farr (31g, 13a in 2014), an IWLCA second-team All-American.
Stanford is led by seventh-year head coach Amy Bokker, who is 83-34 overall in Palo Alto.
A Look at Niagara
The Purple Eagles are 0-1 on the year after a 14-7 loss to Lehigh to open the season Feb. 22. Their Feb. 24 game vs. Binghamton was postponed due to inclement weather.
Niagara was picked to finish sixth in the MAAC preseason poll. Last season the Purple Eagles finished 7-9 overall and 3-5 in the MAAC.
Niagara returns three of its top five scorers from 2014, including Carrie-Jo Farrugia who scored a career-high 35 goals and added a team-best 16 assists. Erin Patenaude and Danielle Maio also return to the fold for the Purple Eagles on the offensive end. Patenaude recorded 22 goals, while dishing out 12 assists for 34 points last season. Maio contributed 15 goals to the Purple Eagle offense and added 10 assists for 25 points.
Head coach Wendy Stone is in her third season as head coach at Niagara. Prior to her time in Niagara, Stone spent three years at Longwood University -- two seasons as an assistant coach and one season as an interim head coach.
Cifarelli Sets Assists Record
Highlighting the victory at Virginia Tech Feb. 15 was senior Jackie Cifarelli, who finished with one goal and two assists while becoming Ohio State's all-time assists leader in the process. She now has 140 for her career, breaking Kristen Slahor's previous record of 139.
Chase, Cifarelli Among Early NCAA Leaders
Through three weeks of the regular season, two Buckeyes have emerged among the leaders in Division I. Senior Katie Chase leads all players with 18 goals while Jackie Cifarelli is first with 15 assists. Cifarelli also is currently tied for second with 21 points.
As a team, Ohio State is third nationally with 103 goals, fifth with 17.75 goals per game and fifth in scoring margin (+10.75).
Put to the Test
The Buckeyes will face a tough road ahead this season in their quest for a Big Ten championship and a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. As of Feb. 23, Ohio State is slated to play six teams who are currently ranked in both major polls, including four in the top 10.
Ohio State's first test against a ranked team will come this weekend vs. No. 15 Stanford, followed by a road game at No. 16 Notre Dame March 21. The Buckeyes then play four ranked teams in their last five games, starting with back-to-back road games at No. 9 Penn State and at No. 5 Duke April 4 and 9, respectively. The Buckeyes then welcome No. 1 Maryland to Columbus April 12 before finishing the regular season on the road at No. 6 Northwestern.
Buckeyes Remain Unbeaten
Ohio State picked up its second road win in three days and remained undefeated with a 14-7 win vs. Virginia Tech at chilly Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Va., Feb. 15. The temperature at game time read just 10 degrees, but the Buckeyes didn't let that stand in the way of its hot start to the 2015 season.
It was a tale of two halves as the Buckeyes once again found themselves in a battle in the first half, leading 7-5 at the break. But Ohio State turned it up a notch defensively in the second 30 minutes, allowing just two goals and forcing turnovers on 5 off 11 VT clear attempts and forcing 10 total turnovers in the half, three of those caused by Taylor Donahue. The Buckeye defense also did not allow a goal in the final 19:47.
Cian Dabrowski led the Ohio State attack with four goals, followed by three apiece from Mary Kate Facchina and Katie Chase who also had three draw controls. Jennifer Porretto led the Buckeyes with six ground balls in addition to one draw control and one goal. Molly Wood and Rainey Hodgson also each tallied one goal.
Ohio State led 5-2 midway through the first half before two straight goals by VT cut the lead to 5-4. But that would be as close as the Hokies would come as Ohio State led 7-5 at the break.
Then after halftime, Ohio State cranked up the intensity, starting with back-to-back goals by Dabrowski and Chase, followed by another from Dabrowski at the 20:01 mark to push the lead to 11-6. VT's Jessi Thon would cut the lead to 11-7 just 13 seconds later, but Ohio State responded with three consecutive goals to close out the game and secure the win.
Buckeyes Closing in on Career Records
Several Buckeyes are expected to break several Ohio State career records this season, starting with senior Jackie Cifarelli who became Ohio State's all-time assists leader in the win at Virginia Tech Feb. 15, passing Kristen Slahor's mark of 139. Cifarelli also is in fourth place on Ohio State's all-time points list with 207. The record is 314 by Alayna Markwordt.
Meanwhile, classmate Katie Chase is currently second on Ohio State's all-time list for draw controls with 157. The record is held by Gabby Capuzzi who recorded 166 from 2009-12.
Also in the running for another record is senior goalie Tori DeScenza, who already holds the career record for wins, now with 34. DeScenza is currently third with 433 saves behind Megan Barnett (448) and Kristen Gilwee (497).
Buckeyes Will Play Three Games on TV, Two on BTN
The Big Ten conference announced the television schedule for the inaugural season of Big Ten women's lacrosse and the Buckeyes will play two games on Big Ten Network and one on ESPN3.
The March 21 game at Notre Dame will be televised on ESPN3.com at Noon ET, while the April 9 game at Duke and the April 16 home finale vs. Rutgers will both be televised nationally on BTN.
Head Coach Alexis Venechanos
Alexis Venechanos is in her fifth season at the helm of the Ohio State women's lacrosse team in 2015 and has turned the program into one of the nation's best during her tenure. She has amassed a record of 46-30 at Ohio State and boasts a career record of 82-68 as a head coach.
A winner everywhere she has been, Venechanos has been a part of four NCAA titles (as a player and coach) and a total of eight conference championships and she has now brought those winning ways to Ohio State.
Last season, the Buckeyes finished the 2014 campaign with a 13-7 overall record with a 4-2 mark in ALC play, ending the year with a No. 13 national ranking by the IWLCA -- the second-best finish in school history in a national poll.
New Faces on the Coaching Staff
Jill Byers and Christie Kaestner joined the Ohio State coaching staff in July as assistant coaches, replacing Christy Leach, who was named the head coach at Stetson University, and Gabby Capuzzi, who was named an assistant coach at Navy. Byers, a standout All-American at Notre Dame (2006-09), came to Columbus after spending the last five seasons as an assistant coach, including last year at Stony Brook, while Kaestner, who also was an All-American at Duke (2007-11), joins the Buckeye program after two seasons as an assistant at Coastal Carolina.
Buckeyes Tied for Third in Big Ten Preseason Poll
Ohio State was picked to finish third (tied with Penn State) in the inaugural season of Big Ten women's lacrosse. In addition, seniors Katie Chase, Jackie Cifarelli and Tori DeScenza have been voted Players to Watch in 2015. DeScenza claimed first-team preseason All-America honors by both IL and Lacrosse Magazine, Cifarelli was named a second-team preseason All-American by IL and Chase was chosen as an honorable mention preseason All-American with Taylor Donahue.
Maryland was the unanimous choice by the conference coaches as the preseason favorite to claim the first Big Ten Championship. The coaches voted in the preseason poll and selected three players from their own team to a Players to Watch list. The Terrapins were followed in the preseason poll by Northwestern in second place, Ohio State and Penn State tied for third place, Rutgers in fifth place and Michigan in sixth place.
2015 Big Ten Women's Preseason Poll
(T-3) Ohio State
(T-3) Penn State
Inaugural Season of B1G Lacrosse
In June 2013, the Big Ten announced the addition of men's and women's lacrosse as the conference's 27th and 28th sports. Big Ten women's lacrosse features teams that have won 24 national championships and 20 of the 33 NCAA Championships, including nine of the last 10. The inaugural Big Ten Women's Lacrosse Tournament will be hosted by Rutgers from April 30 to May 3. The tournament will include all six conference programs, with two quarterfinal matches on Thursday. The top two seeds will receive byes to Friday's semifinals, followed by the championship match on Sunday.
Ohio State will hit the road for four consecutive road games, beginning March 8 at Duquesne.
Humphrey Highlights | Mackenzie Maring