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Ohio State women’s lacrosse fends off late rally to upset No. 9 Penn State on senior day

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OSU senior attackman Cian Dabrowski (14) charges forward with the ball while Penn State senior Ally Heavens (26) plays defense during a game in Columbus on April 9. Credit: Evan Szymkowicz | Sports Director

OSU senior attackman Cian Dabrowski (14) charges forward with the ball while Penn State senior Ally Heavens (26) plays defense during a game in Columbus on April 9. OSU won, 16-13. Credit: Evan Szymkowicz | Sports Director

It was all about the Ohio State women’s lacrosse team’s senior class on Saturday. The nine players were honored on the field before the game against Penn State, and then they stole the show during it, helping lift the Buckeyes to victory.

Cian Dabrowski tied a career-high with seven points, attacker Rainy Hodgson added eight points and goalie Katie Frederick stopped 13 shots, one shy of her career-best, to help No. 12 OSU upset ninth-ranked Penn State 16-13 on a blistering cold day in Columbus.  

“I’m at a loss for words right now,” said Dabrowski, who had four goals and three assists. “I think it means a lot to the whole senior class, and the whole team. We all contributed to this win. We had something to go against there from losing in (the Big Ten tournament) to them. We were all really fired up for the game.”

With the win, the Buckeyes added to the best start in program history at 11-1, while the Nittany Lions dropped to 9-3. It’s also just the second time in 11 games that OSU has beaten Penn State.

“Every year this game with Penn State is such a battle,” Hodgson said. “We were really hyped to get back out here.”

The Buckeyes mounted a six-goal lead 10 minutes into the second half and it looked like they might be able to run away from the Nittany Lions. But not so fast.

The Nittany Lions ripped off four unanswered goals to trim OSU’s lead to two with 14:12 remaining in the game. Both teams traded shots over the next five minutes, keeping Penn State within striking distance.

“You’ve got calm them down in those moments,” said OSU coach Alexis Venechanos. “I think we got a little too emotional. We needed to get back to the gameplan, do what we’ve been doing.”

And that’s what happened. The Buckeyes regained their momentum, scoring the game’s final four goals to secure the win, which is the 45th victory for the senior class, tying a program record.

“It was important for us to have the lead then come back after they had their big run,” Venechanos said.

The Buckeyes jumped out to a quick 3-1 lead to start the game behind goals from Dabrowski, senior midfielder Christine Easton, who would score twice more later on, and Hodgson.

Yet the early hole didn’t phase Penn State. The Nittany Lions remained composed on offense, taking time to move the ball around their attack area to set up high-percentage looks. It paid off. Penn State netted three goals in less than three minutes — with a Dabrowski goal sandwiched inside — to tie the game at 4-4 with 16:54 left in the half.

But from there until the halftime buzzer, it was all Scarlet and Gray.

OSU seized momentum, using two goals from Dabrowski and sophomore attacker Molly Wood, three timely saves from Frederick and a last-second goal from Easton to lead 9-5 at the break.

“That was huge for us,” Dabrowski said. “Our defense made some great stops, and Frederick in the cage was huge. Lacrosse is a big game of momentum, so it really helped us out.”

The Buckeyes’ offensive barrage resumed promptly once the second half began. In the first two minutes, OSU found the net twice, first from Hodgson and then from a cutting Easton, who received a lob pass from Dabrowski and rifled it past senior goalkeeper Emi Smith.

Penn State freshman attacker Madison Carter answered less than a minute later to make it 11-7.  The Buckeyes responded with two consecutive goals, including Hodgson’s third of the game, to make it 13-7, although it almost wasn’t enough to withstand Penn State’s ensuing four-goal run.

Sophomore midfielder Katie O’Donnell lead the Nittany Lions with four goals, while Carter added three. Penn State was just the second team all season to score in double figures against the Buckeyes, a statistic Venechanos pointed out.

The coach said the Buckeyes will look to clean their defense up during the week as a result, although she’s happy with the overall effort.

“I think every game we’re learning from and getting better,” Venechanos said. “This group is really hungry.”

The Buckeyes are set to get back in action on Saturday against top-ranked Maryland (10-0).

OSU will try replicating the success it had against the Terrapins in the Big Ten semifinals a season ago. In that game, Maryland was also undefeated and ranked No. 1, but that didn’t stop OSU from upsetting them 11-10. Play is scheduled to start at noon in College Park, Maryland.

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