March 19, 2014

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WD1 Notebook: Ohio State Turns Corner

by Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

A win over Northwestern - the Buckeyes' first since 2003 - served as the centerpiece for Ohio State's recent turnaround. (Ohio State Athletics)

The Ohio State women's lacrosse team hit a rough patch early this season but quickly turned the corner.

Now the No. 16 Buckeyes (6-3) have some momentum going into a big American Lacrosse Conference matchup against No. 5 Florida, as they host the Gators (8-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

Ohio State opened at 2-3, including three straight losses to Stanford, Boston College and Canisius, but the Buckeyes now are riding a four-game win streak that began with notable wins over Louisville and then-No. 4 Northwestern. They beat Hofstra 9-8 in New York on March 15 and are idle until Florida arrives at Ohio Stadium.

"I think everything happened for a reason," Ohio State coach Alexis Venechanos said. "I feel like those situations early in the season helped us to where we are right now."

Turnovers were a cause for concern early on and played a factor in the Buckeyes' losses. Ohio State had 18 miscues in an 11-10 loss to Canisius on March 1, and Stanford took advantage of seven second-half turnovers to rally for an 11-9 win on Feb. 19.

Venechanos said she's seen a different team since then.

"That made our team a little more hungry and they cleaned a lot of things up physically, but I think that mental toughness is a lot of why we are where we are," Venechanos said. "We saw how those little mistakes cost us early in the season, so we've been there already and we want to continue to move forward. It was a good learning experience."

Ohio State showed its resiliency by bouncing back to win three games in six days heading into last weekend's win at Hofstra.

Venechanos said it was an important stretch to build some confidence for the rest of the season.

"The hope is you go back to those moments and you're able to feel confident if they come back again," Venechanos said. "We need to go back to those moments to improve them and not get caught up in the past. We're looking forward to another opportunity to get better every game."

Jackie Cifarelli leads the team with 30 points on eight goals and 22 assists, while Katie Chase has a team-high 20 goals and two assists. Seven players have 16 points or more, creating a nice balance on attack that Venechanos admitted she was surprised to see.

STAYING HUMBLE

Boston College has reached the Top 5 after a 7-1 start, but still has plenty of work to do, according to head coach Acacia Walker. 

Boston College coach Acacia Walker said the Eagles are honored to be among the nation's top five right now, but are working to stay grounded for the long haul – especially with a game against top-ranked North Carolina on Saturday.

The Eagles' early-season success doesn't necessarily reflect some of the "growing pains" Walker is seeing. Ranked No. 4, Boston College (7-1) has wins over Notre Dame and Ohio State, and the lone loss was an 11-9 game against Syracuse. However, during its current four-game win streak, two of those against unranked teams were decided by just three goals.

"We're not playing to our potential right now so I'm hoping with more hard work and time and practice and patience we'll get there," Walker said. "This weekend will be an awesome test."

Walker said the Eagles lack consistency and need to put together a full game to be successful in any game, but even more so against a team like UNC.

"It's intensity and focus," Walker said. "We really upped the intensity in practice this week and raised the bar as far as expectations and keeping them accountable for their mistakes. Playing in the ACC you have to be at your best at all times, so we are raising the bar in every capacity."

Boston College ranks 20th in scoring defense, allowing 8.4 points per game, and is 23rd in scoring offense with 13.3 points per game.

Walker said she has been pleased with the progress of the defense – led by Claire Blohm and Kate McCarthy – and some young players are stepping up on offense, but the midfield play has carried the team so far.

"The greatest part of our game is speed and athleticism and what we are doing in the midfield – pushing the ball in transition and building fastbreaks," Walker said. "Hopefully we can build on that and put together all the pieces."

QUICK SLANTS

Stony Brook (5-2), which entered the Lacrosse Magazine rankings at No. 19 this week, has been dominant in its wins, outscoring opponents 81-16. The Seawolves' two losses were to Florida, 14-1, and Notre Dame, 9-8. Dorrien Van Dyke (23 goals, 2 assists) and Courtney Murphy (21 goals, 2 assists) lead the attack, and goalkeeper Frankie Caridi posts a 5.45 goals against average.

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Robert Morris sophomore Jessica Karwacki leads the nation in draw controls with 84 for an average of 14 a game. Northwestern senior Alyssa Leonard, who recently set the NCAA career draw control mark at 359, averages 8.83 draw controls per game this season.

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Navy is off to an 8-0 start for the first time in program history. The Mids opened the 2010 season at 7-0 and were 6-0 last year before dropping their first loss. Senior Aimee Gennaro has scored in 24 consecutive games, including 20 multi-goal performances. She has 23 goals this season, bringing her active NCAA-leading career goal total to 192.

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The University of Southern California, in its second season, has won three straight since dropping its first two games. The Trojans cap off a six-game home stretch Wednesday against Princeton.


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