May 4, 2012

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The 14th-ranked and fourth-seeded Ohio State women’s lacrosse team pulled even with third-ranked and top-seed Florida midway through the second half before eventually dropping a 5-4 decision in the ALC Tournament semifinals Friday night at Dizney Stadium in Gainesville, Fla. The Buckeyes now are 11-6 on the season, while the Gators improve to 16-2 in advancing to their second-consecutive conference final appearance.

Tori DeScenza was brilliant between the pipes, stopping 15 shots, including four on free-position opportunities, to finish one off her career high. Offensively, Alayna Markwordt scored the first three of Ohio State’s four goals, while Gabby Capuzzi added the fourth which pulled the Buckeyes within one in the final seconds of the game.

“I think we came in with a good game plan,” Alexis Venchanos, Ohio State head coach, said. “I am really proud of how our athletes competed to the very end. We had our backs against the wall a bit playing a day prior but we didn’t use that as an excuse. I am very proud of the way we competed. We made some adjustments at halftime and got the draw and I am just very proud to be sitting here.”

The game plan to take care of the ball offensively and in turn limit Florida’s opportunities succeeded in holding the Gators to their lowest scoring output of the last two seasons. They would end up winning the defensive battle with two scores apiece from Nora Barry and Nicole Graziano with Brittney Dashiell adding the fifth to go along with a pair of assists.

“It was definitely a defensive battle out there,” Amanda O’Leary, Florida head coach, said. “You have to credit Ohio State. They came in with a great defensive game plan. They obviously took what we had done in our first game [against them] and basically fixed it and I thought they came out and did a great job.”

All first-half scoring occurred within a two-minute span beginning just over nine minutes into the game when Barry finished off a pass from Gabi Wiegland for the first goal of the game. Markwordt evened the field 1:27 later with an unassisted goal after wrapping around the crease from behind after Tayler Kuzma cleared the ball saved by DeScenza on the opposite end.

Barry scored again off an assist from Dashiell at the 18:49 mark, making the score 2-1 in favor of the Gators and ending scoring for both sides until nearly eight minutes into the second half. The Gators took eight shots during the scoreless span, which lasted nearly 26 minutes of game action, hitting the post with one and having the remaining seven stopped by DeScenza.

“I think their goalie [Tori DeScenza] played phenomenal,” Kitty Cullen, the Gators’ second-leading scorer. “She was able to stop us all over the place and she did a really awesome job.”

Dashiell eventually got one through off an assist from Florida teammate Caroline Chesterman to go up by two, but Markwordt pulled the Buckeyes back into the game with two goals within 17 seconds with less than 17 minutes to go in the game. The front end of the pair was a nearly identical wraparound to her first of the night, while the second came off the ensuing draw control won by Rachel Wiederkehr. Wiederkehr made her first start of the season against Florida and helped the Buckeyes in winning each of the first four draws of the second period.

“Our attack was just working together and when the opportunities came up we just capitalized on them,” Markwordt said of her quick scores. “Getting the draw control was really crucial so we just moved it down the field and the opportunity was there.”

With the score tied 3-3, Graziano sprang into action for Florida just over four minutes later and scored each of its next two to make the score 5-3 with 10:30 left on the clock. Capuzzi was able to find the back of the net with seven seconds remaining, but a couple prior wide shots and costly turnovers down the stretch had already taken its toll on the Buckeyes’ comeback.

Florida finished with advantages in shots (24-17), groundballs (26-11) and draw controls (7-4).

The Buckeyes will await their NCAA Tournament fate until the field is announced at 9 p.m. Sunday. The Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship is a 16-team, single-elimination tournament with seven automatic bids, plus two from pre-determined play-in games and seven additional at-large selections. Ohio State was 26th in the RPI figures released Thursday prior to the start of the ALC tournament and last made appearances in the championship field in 2002 and 2003.