The Ohio State women’s lacrosse team has had a stellar class of young talent come in and make an immediate impact.
Freshman midfielder Liza Hernandez has swept all of the Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards this season, with her third coming after her four-goal, two-assist outing against Cincinnati. But her fellow freshman, goalie Jillian Rizzo (3-0), has been just as hot from the start of the season, and just this week won her first Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award.
Rizzo, who had 11 saves in the Buckeyes’ previous game, has the Buckeyes at No. 2 in save percentage (.508) in the Big Ten, and is 15th nationally with 30 saves on the year. Her play has not gone unnoticed by her team, but an individual award is not something that she is focusing on.
“It feels pretty cool,” Rizzo said. “I don’t really dwell on that. It’s exciting for the day and then I’m looking forward to the next game. It’s cool but it doesn’t mean that much.”
Hernandez’s 16 points through the first three games have her sitting second in the Big Ten and tied for 23rd nationally in points. Seventeen of her 19 shots on the year have been on target.
“She’s a great teammate,” OSU coach Alexis Venechanos said. “The upperclassmen are giving her the green light to take those shots. She’s playing fearlessly right now, she’s great.”
Freshman attacker Alex Vander Molen has also been influential on the offensive end for OSU. She has started in two of three games so far and has assisted on nine goals this season, tying her for tenth in the NCAA.
Two California teams make the trip to Columbus
The Buckeyes will be hosting a weekend double-header against the Stanford Cardinal (1-3) and California Golden Bears (0-2), which will wrap up their three-game homestand. Both are teams that OSU is familiar with, having played Stanford 14 times and California 10.
Each time against Stanford, OSU has been anything but phenomenal. Stanford has beaten the Scarlet and Gray four consecutive times, and the Buckeyes have won only four of their 14 total matchups against the Cardinal.
“We’re always going to see something new when we play Stanford,” Venechanos said. “They’re always changing defenses, their rides have always been impressive in the past, a really unselfish team on the attack.”
OSU will look to repeat a similar start to last weekend against Cincinnati by dominating the early minutes. Senior midfielder Morgan Fee could be the key to having the same success, winning seven draw controls during the game. Fee got her first start on Sunday against the Bearcats and helped the Buckeyes jump out to an early lead.
“We need to figure out how to win the draw (control),” Fee said. “How to gain possession and hold possession throughout the first five minutes because during our previous games we had kind of gotten off to a rocky start.”
While the Stanford Cardinal looms as more of an imminent threat to the Buckeyes, OSU squeaked out a narrow overtime victory against the Golden Bears in Berkeley, California, last season. California is currently winless on the year but they are returning eight seniors from last year’s team, including attacker Jena Fritts who led them in points (30) and assists (20) a season ago.
Both games will be played at Ohio Stadium, and with Friday’s game against Stanford set for a 6 p.m. start the Buckeyes will get their first action under the stadium lights. Sunday’s game against California will start at noon.