The No. 15 Ohio State women’s lacrosse team is getting ready to open Big Ten play as it travels to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to play the Michigan Wolverines. OSU is starting its conference schedule on the right foot, ranking second in the Big Ten through nonconference play thanks to a seven-game winning streak.
OSU is 3-0 against the Wolverines, winning last year’s meeting 13-5 at home. Going into conference play, the team is not thinking about the seven-game winning streak but rather starting fresh from the beginning, said OSU coach Alexis Venechanos.
“We’re looking for areas to get better because the competition is going to be greater and the speed of play is going to be faster,” Venechanos said. “The Big Ten is a faster, more physical conference, and the championship is on the line, and the intensity picks up a lot.”
Venechanos said she expects the weekend’s contest to be a physical and aggressive game against OSU’s rival. Michigan leads the Big Ten and is 10th in the NCAA in caused turnovers per game, averaging 10.9. The Wolverines are currently 5-6 going into Big Ten play, though, so she said they will be ready to fight.
“We are just going to worry about ourselves, so we’re looking to get sharper in our style of play,” Venechanos said. “Our defense, our attack and our midfield need to be on the same page, and we’re expecting a competitive Big Ten game.”
OSU has a record of 9-1, which has tied the program record for the best start to the season. A victory against Michigan would give the Buckeyes the record of the best start to a campaign in program history. Also, a win would give OSU its record for the longest winning streak.
The games leading up to the Big Ten opener have allowed the team to piece things together, said senior attackman Cian Dabrowski.
“We have definitely shown to be versatile on offense, and I think that stems from our growing chemistry,” she said. “Being able to take different things from each game has prepared us for Big Ten play, and we’re all really excited to prove ourselves this weekend.”
The Buckeyes consider their work ethic to be their biggest strength, said sophomore midfielder Molly Wood, so they’re working on the little things to make the team better.
“The Big Ten conference is one of the toughest in the country, and we’re fortunate enough to play in it,” Wood said. “We’re going against some amazing teams, and we will have big matchups every single game the rest of the season.”
Wood added that having such a competitive conference will help pump up the team’s intensity, as they want to represent OSU well in the Big Ten.
“Michigan is our biggest rival, and we it’s going to be a huge fight,” Wood said. “We both want a victory, and we’ve been working hard, so it’ll be a great game.”
Player of the week
Dabrowski was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, recognizing her performances in OSU’s two games last weekend. Venechanos said Dabrowski is a superb facilitator for the team, and she’s a huge positive influence for the Buckeyes in the attack.
“Cian is a great team player, as we’ve been asking her to put some goals up and she’s been handling the pressure really well,” Venechanos said. “She’s been getting double- and sometimes triple-teamed, but she’s a fearless player and it’s great for her to hit that landmark.”
Dabrowski said it’s an honor to be recognized in such a tough lacrosse conference.
“The Big Ten is strong and continues to get stronger, so it’s really humbling to be acknowledged when some of the best players in the country are from our conference,” Dabrowski said. “We’ve all been working really hard and getting extra work in so whenever someone is recognized it’s really special and it reflects on the entire team.”
Although Dabrowski won the honor, she credited most of the work to her teammates.
“I think it starts and ends with the little things that they do to give us those extra opportunities on attack,” Dabrowski said. “Sometimes things don’t go our way, but we can always count on our defense to get a big stop for us, and we’re all committed to winning the draw and ground-ball battle.”
Dabrowski goes into this weekend with a team-record 100 goals, but she said she still has room for improvement.
“My focus going forward is better shot selection by making smarter decisions and taking the shot that I want,” Dabrowski said. “Another focus of mine that has a strong impact is having more draw controls, boxing out to make it easier for the drawers to do their job, and coming up with the ball when I can.”
Wood said playing with Dabrowski in the attack is a great opportunity to create opportunities for herself and her teammates.
“It’s so amazing to be able to play with Cian because she’s such a playmaker,” Wood said. “She works hard to make the rest of us look better, too, and we can always count on her to come in clutch.”
Wood leads the Big Ten and ranks ninth in the NCAA with 5.5 draws per game, and she is also second on the team with 25 goals. Wood said the team is working as hard as it can as it heads into Big Ten play.
“We still have our toughest games coming up, as we’re only halfway through our season,” Wood said. “It’s just about stepping up and working hard every day at practice, and making sure we’re on the same page.”
Venechanos goes into the weekend with 100 wins under her belt. She has been successful throughout her career as a player and a coach, with four NCAA titles and a total of eight conference championships.
“It’s a great milestone, and I give credit to all the former players and assistant coaches,” Venechanos said. “It happened really fast, and it’s incredible to be able to do it at a place like OSU.”
The Buckeyes are next set to take on Penn State on April 9 at 4 p.m. in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium.