Nike/LM NCAA Preview: No. 18 Ohio State (Women)
Ohio State's winningest senior class is gone after 45 career victories. Eleven players gone, and 11 new recruits in to fill their shoes.
What can the Buckeyes do to follow up a successful 2015 campaign that included handing Maryland it's only loss of the season.
Ohio State is ranked No. 18 in the Nike/Lacrosse Magazine Preseason Top 20.
Ohio State at a Glance
2015 Record: 13-8
3 Big Things
1. The Buckeyes are very inexperienced.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Statistically, offense has been Ohio State’s most consistent aspect the past five years. Despite seeing a drop in shooting percentage last season (from 51.6 in 2014 to 47.2), the Buckeyes’ scoring average went up. That’s because they took an average of 6.2 more shots per game, a credit to a faster pace they hope to balance with the settled attack this season.
Ohio State lost eight starters to graduation and will be counting on a lot of returning players who haven’t seen much game time, as well as contributions from an 11-member freshman class. Venechanos said the focus in the fall was getting used to playing together and developing chemistry. It was such a concern that the staff took the players on a whitewater rafting trip in West Virginia to help them learn to trust one another.
“It was a good time for our program, and those connections we made I think will be very beneficial to us,” Venechanos said. They still have a ways to go, though.
2. The attackers will need to create for themselves.
The Buckeyes lost their top three scorers to graduation, including Katie Chase, who had a team-high 59 goals, and Jackie Cifarelli, who had a team-high 54 assists. Thanks to the balance of one of the best offenses in the country last year, they still have some goal-scorers, but the midfield is especially raw, and Venechanos said the players don’t yet have their timing and communication down.
“We’re going to need to create a little for ourselves,” she said. “We have some great dodgers and some ankle-breakers. We’re going to add some of that, where in the past we created a lot of goals off-ball with great feeds and great spacing.”
3. Speed is a strength.
For a program with so many fresh faces filling the lineup, there are more individual high points than team strengths entering the season. But one common strong suit for the Buckeyes is their speed.
“This fall, of all the competition, we were definitely the fastest team, and we played a lot of great teams,” Venechanos said. “Our speed is going to be our X-factor.”
Venechanos hopes it helps create turnovers on defense, provides a lift to the transition game and provides more opportunities on offense, though she still plans to use a mix of a run-and-gun attack and a more settled approach.
Katie Frederick (Sr.)
* returning starters
The Canadian caught fire in the second half of last season and finished with 29 goals and 10 assists, including four goals against Maryland. Unorthodox in her ability to make plays, Dabrowski could be “one of the best dodgers and one of the most exciting players in the country in her ability to finish in tight,” Venechanos said.
A five-year varsity starter for Suffern (N.Y.) High, Parrott recorded 181 goals and 130 assists during her high school career, and she has the potential for the same kind of success with the Buckeyes. “She’s solid, gritty, fast, and she’s one of those middies that does all the little things right,” Venechanos said.
The only freshman to see consistent playing time last year, Wood was the team’s third-leading scorer with 31 goals and could get more looks this year. “She’s good off-ball and does the draw; she’s physically a strong presence,” Venechanos said. “She has great finishing ability, and she’s a great threat for us.”
Biggest Question Mark
Ohio State was hit hard by graduation, losing a four-year starter in goal and the top two defenders. The Buckeyes have some returning players stepping up but they don’t necessarily have much game experience. Junior Christina Turner started in 14 games last year and will be the anchor.
What rival coaches say about the Buckeyes
"I think they’ve proven to be a consistently tough team to play. They’re younger, but they have some players ready to step up."
"They had a good draw-taker last year who was a freshman, Molly Wood."
"I’m sure they have some confidence coming off the season they had."
"Their goalie always gave us fits so I’m excited she finally graduated.”
The number of players that graduated last year, with nine of them seeing significant playing time. They not only leave a depleted lineup but a legacy for future classes to follow, exiting as the winningest class in program history with 45 victories. They ended their careers with back-to-back 13-win seasons.
25 @ Binghamton
Feb. 21 at Stanford
Penn State, which beat Ohio State twice by a combined three goals last year, is probably going to be a key conference game. But this young squad has a lot to learn before then, and Stanford will be a good early test. Some success out West in February could help set the tone for the rest of the season.
Ohio State welcomes back 2015 graduate Jennifer Porretto as a volunteer assistant. The two-time captain earned her degree in sport industry and helped the Buckeyes to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for just the second time in program history the past two seasons, finishing with 41 goals and 18 assists last year.
The Buckeyes have talent, but there is something to be said for experience playing together, and that’s what they lack. Expect some growing pains, but also a few surprises.
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