COLUMBUS, Ohio – The No. 20 Ohio State women’s lacrosse team travels to fifth-ranked Northwestern for an American Lacrosse League contest at 8 p.m. (7 p.m. CT) Friday at Lakeside Field in Evanston, Ill. The Buckeyes look to recover from a double-overtime loss to No. 13 Penn State last weekend, while the Wildcats are coming off back-to-back conference losses to No. 3 Florida and No. 18 Johns Hopkins.
FOLLOW THE BUCKEYES
The Ohio State-Northwestern game will be streamed live on BigTenNetwork.com (subscription fees apply) or can be followed online through Gametracker, linked on the front page and women’s lacrosse schedule page of OhioStateBuckeyes.com. For fans on twitter, live updates will be provided via @NU_SportsLIVE. Throughout the season, you can follow the Buckeyes on the official website OhioStateBuckeyes.com, as well through Twitter (@OhioState_WLAX) and Facebook (facebook.com/OhioStateWomensLacrosse).
IN A NUTSHELL
The Buckeyes are led in scoring by junior Alayna Markwordt and senior Brittney Zerhusen. Markwordt has a team-high 62 points off 42 goals and 20 assists, while Zerhusen is just a step behind with 38 goals as well with 18 assists for 56 points. Annie Carruthers, the preseason ALC goalie of the year, has started all 13 games between the pipes and has a 9.79 goals-against average with a .444 save percentage on 254 shots faced. On the draw, Gabby Capuzzi and Jayme Beard are forces to be reckoned with, securing 38 draws apiece.
Winners of six of their last eight games, the Buckeyes enter the game Sunday vs. Penn State with an 8-5 record after victories against American (16-4), St. Bonaventure (19-4), Canisius (23-7), Notre Dame (13-8), California (16-4), Louisville (15-11), Vanderbilt (16-15) and Detroit (26-3). The team has outscored opponents 145-57 in games won and average just over 14 goals per game in all contests this season.
The first women’s lacrosse Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) of the 2011 season was released Thursday with the Buckeyes coming in at No. 13. All six ALC teams fall in the Top 19 with Northwestern leading the way at No. 1 and Florida following at No. 3. Penn State (No. 11), Ohio State, Vanderbilt (No. 15) and Johns Hopkins (No. 19) round out the conference positions. The RPI is a quantity used to rank sports teams based primarily upon a team’s wins and losses and its strength of schedule.
RANK AND FILE
Ohio State comes into the week ranked No. 20 in the IWLCA/Under Armour Coaches poll, its second-consecutive week among the Top 20. The Buckeyes are 1-1 as a ranked team after defeating Detroit, 26-3, April 12 and falling to Penn State, 11-10, last Sunday. They also are 2-4 this season against opponents ranked in the Top 20 (wins: No. 11 Notre Dame, No. 14 Vanderbilt; losses: No. 4 Duke, No. 9 Stanford, No. 6 Florida, No. 15 Penn State).
The American Lacrosse Conference made history this week, placing all six of its teams in the Top 20. This is the first time an entire league has been positioned in the national rankings, as well as marking the most teams from one conference to do so.
WIN, LOSE OR DRAW CONTROL
The Buckeyes have dominated in the center circle this season. They are second in the ALC and fifth in the nation with 15.23 per game. Northwestern is the only conference team ranked higher; the Wildcats currently lead the nation with 17.50 draws per contest. Ohio State has out-drawn its opponents in all but two games this season, winning 59 percent (198-337) this season.
As just a junior, Alayna Markwordt holds the No. 3 position in all-time scoring at Ohio State with 207 career points. She also is third in goals (130) and assists (77). Kelly Haggerty, a letterwinner in 2007-10, holds the top spot in points with 243 and shares the lead in goals with Megan Mirick (1999-2003) with 143. Kristen Slahor is the Buckeyes’ all-time leader in assists with 139 to her credit during the 2005-08 seasons. Marwordt has tallied at least one goal or assist in 44-consecutive games, dating back to March 1, 2009.
In addition to the records Markwordt is poised to take over, Gabby Capuzzi is tied for third all-time in draw controls (101), while Annie Carruthers is third in saves (317).
In the Buckeyes’ recent three-game winning streak, senior attacker Brittney Zerhusen was the dominant force with 15 goals and eight assists to her credit during the run. She was named the WomensLax.com Player of the Week and the ALC Offensive Player of the Week April 11 after leading the Buckeyes to their first ALC victory of the season, an upset of 14th-ranked Vanderbilt, 17-16. The Sykesville, Md., native had 10 points off five goals and five assists vs. the Commodores, leading all scorers and tying her career high for single-game points, a mark which ranks fourth all-time in the Ohio State record books.
AROUND THE ALC AND NCAA
Heading into this week of competition, Ohio State boasted the third-ranked offense in the American Lacrosse Conference, scoring 14.11 goals per game, a mark which stood as 12th in the nation. As a team, Ohio State also was in a No. 5 national position in draws with 15.23 to their credit, as well as holding the No. 25 spot in scoring defense (9.53 GAA) and a No. 27 ranking in groundballs with 17.62 per game at the start of the week.
Individually, Alayna Markwordt and Brittney Zerhusen were third and fourth in the ALC and seventh and 14th in the NCAA by contributing 4.77 and 4.31 points per game. They held the same positions within the conference in goals per game (12 and 22 in NCAA), while Markwordt also is third in the league and 28th in the country with 1.54 assists per game. Jayme Beard and Gabby Capuzzi also are among the conference leaders as the duo was tied for fourth in the ALC and 30th in the NCAA in draw controls with 38 on the season.
Ohio State head coach Alexis Venechanos and assistant coach Christy Finch each have ties to the Northwestern program. Venechanos served as an assistant coach to Kelly Amonte Hiller for three seasons (2004-06), helping the Wildcats to their first two of five-consecutive NCAA championships before departing to take the reins at UMass.
Playing for Venechanos her first two seasons, Finch was a four-time national champion with the Wildcats (2005-08) and was named the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) Defensive Player of the Year and an All-America selection in 2007 and 2008. As a senior, Finch led the nation in caused turnovers with 70 and was honored as a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, Defender of the Year by Inside Lacrosse, Womenslacrosse.com and WomensLax.com.
The fifth-ranked Wildcats (12-2, 2-2) are coming off back-to-back losses for the first time since the 2003 season after falling to Florida and Johns Hopkins last week, ending a streak of 38-consecutive wins against ALC opponents. Their offense is ranked fifth in the nation and is led by junior attacker Shannon Smith, who tops the NCAA in points per game with 5.57, and is tied for fifth nationally with 46 total goals. Northwestern averages 15.14 goals per game and has three players with 20 or more goals on the season. Smith, along with sophomore defender Taylor Thornton recently was named to the midseason watch list of Tewaaraton Trophy candidates.
Northwestern holds a 7-2 advantage in the all-time series, winning each of the last seven meetings. Ohio State last defeated the Wildcats during the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
LAST TIME OUT
Despite dominating play and time of possession in overtime, the No. 19- ranked Buckeyes dropped an 11-10 decision to 15th-ranked Penn State in double OT last Sunday at Jeffrey Field in University Park, Pa. The Buckeyes had their three-game winning streak snapped with the loss and drop to 8-5 on the season and 1-2 in the ALC, while the Nittany Lions improve to 8-6 overall and 2-2 in the conference. Jen Steadman, who had a game-high five goals, scored for Penn State with 5:15 remaining in the second overtime period for the golden goal and the win. The teams played a full six-minute extra-time period with neither team finding the back of the net following the 10-10 finish to regulation. Alayna Markwordt had a team-high four goals for the Buckeyes, while four others added at least one tally.
The Buckeyes close out the regular season at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 30 against No. 18 Johns Hopkins in Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. The game will be the final at JOMS for eight senior standouts: Jayme Beard, Maghan Beaudrault, Natasha Blackburn, Annie Carruthers, Lindsey Gysin, Jacqueline Orona, Maggie Smith and Brittney Zerhusen.