After women’s rowing was added to the Big Ten in 1999, it took 14 years for another women’s sport to officially join the conference. That changed in June 2013 as the Big Ten announced that women’s lacrosse would be joining the conference as the 28th official sport.
Almost two years later, Michigan, Penn State, Rutgers, Maryland, Northwestern and Ohio State are set to open the first Big Ten women’s lacrosse season this weekend.
After playing in the American Lacrosse Conference throughout her career, OSU senior attackman Jackie Cifarelli said she is honored to be playing in the Big Ten.
“It’s awesome. Being a Buckeye, just knowing you’re in the Big Ten, going against some of the best schools in the country, it’s exciting,” Cifarelli said. “Having the Big Ten logo on our jerseys now, it’s an honor.”
Fittingly, the No. 14 Buckeyes (8-2, 0-0) are set to take on Big Ten rival, the Michigan Wolverines (5-4, 0-0), in their first game competing in the conference.
Last year, the Buckeyes played the Wolverines for the first time in the program’s history and won, 18-3.
But despite that blowout victory, coach Alexis Venechanos said she won’t overlook Michigan this year.
“They are a more improved team and they play a physical brand of lacrosse, so we are excited to match that and use that to our advantage,” Venechanos said. “I think you just kind of throw away the records and throw away all the numbers when you play such a rivalry game.”
The Buckeyes had high expectations entering the season after appearing in the NCAA tournament last year for first time since 2003. OSU started its 2015 season 8-2, but suffered losses to No. 15 Stanford and No. 19 Notre Dame. OSU has yet to showcase its true potential, Venechanos said.
“We talked about playing a fearless brand of lacrosse. We haven’t played our best lacrosse yet, but we’ve had a great week of practice. And if we just continue to be aggressive and be fearless, we can be successful,” she said.
The Buckeyes have the some key individual pieces in place, but Cifarelli said success comes from the whole team working together to play the full game.
“Our team is so dynamic, so just being able to play the full 60 minutes, just finishing every game and finishing every goal,” Cifarelli said. “We are so fast, our midfielders are always working so hard down the field, but I think now just practicing and knowing when to slow it down, we can limit our turnovers and win the games.”
Venechanos said the Buckeyes’ first Big Ten game presents an opportunity to improve after losing to Notre Dame on Saturday.
“Every time we step on to the field we want to be better. We are excited to always leave a mark. Our program has continued to get better and we are excited for these opportunities,” she said.
The Buckeyes are scheduled to take on the Wolverines on Friday at 5 p.m. and Hofstra on Sunday at noon.