COLUMBUS, Ohio – In 2009, Sue Stimmel, Ohio State women’s lacrosse head coach, has high hopes for the Buckeyes, entering her 14th season with one of the program’s most well-rounded squads.

After finishing the 2008 campaign with a 10-8 record, the Scarlet and Gray return 21 student-athletes, including Maghan Beaudrault, the 2008 American Lacrosse Conference Freshman of the Year, and adds nine capable freshmen to the roster this season. With this depth, Ohio State looks to climb up the standings to rank in the nation’s Top 20.

On the offensive front, the Buckeyes must replace Kristen Slahor, who led the NCAA in assists during the regular season in 2008. Conference rookie of the year Maghan Beaudrault will move up from the middle to work with junior attacker Brittney Zerhusen, who had a team-best 36 goals a season ago. With a more well-rounded attack under the direction of first-year assistant coach Gregg Gebhard, Ohio State also will receive help from senior Keri Yourick, juniors Kelly Haggerty and Rachel Cornicello and sophomore Melissa Minshall in producing points. 

New to the attack force will be freshman Alayna Markwordt who will bring new energy to the position.

In the middle, Ohio State features more depth than previous squads during Stimmel’s career. This season, the coaching staff will look to use numbers to keep the Scarlet and Gray fresh while wearing down opponents. Under that philosophy, a plethora of Buckeyes will have the opportunity to see game action this season.

“I’m happy we are so deep in the midfield because I hope it will help us push the ball further down the field during transitions,” Stimmel said. “Also, we hope it will help us put more pressure on the ball from a defensive standpoint. With more depth at this position, we are hoping to be able to rotate more people in and out to keep legs fresh.”

Returning for the squad are seniors Rachel Hawes and Margaret Prunte, junior Lauren Sterner and sophomores Jayme Beard, Jacqueline Orona and Maggie Smith. New to the midfield are freshmen Olivia Annalora, Gabby Capuzzi, Kirsten Donahue, Caylee Rafalko and Kelsay Tabor.

The Buckeye backfield welcomes back many familiar faces in 2009. The sister duo of senior Kendall Gysin and sophomore Lindsey Gysin is bolstered by senior Libby Graf and junior Laura Burke. All four defenders earned a significant amount playing time a year ago. Stepping up for the squad in game action will be junior Lindsay Burkhart and sophomore Natasha Blackburn. In addition, redshirt-junior Mallory Mayhew will look to have a break out season as she returns to the field after a series of injuries have kept her on the sideline. Also available to support the defensive corps are rookies Laura Beck and Olivia Cora.

Ohio State has two experienced goalies and will be working with first-year goalie coach Amanda Barnes, a 2008 graduate from the North Carolina women’s lacrosse program. Starting in goal will be senior Kristen Gilwee but after earning valuable playing time in goal last season, sophomore Annie Carruthers is right there behind Gilwee.

“It is nice to go into a season with two strong, experienced goalies,” Stimmel said. “It’s more competitive in practice this year than last year because Annie ended up with more playing time than anticipated when Gilwee missed a few games because of injury. Annie is certainly capable of stepping in a game without missing a beat.”

As a member of the American Lacrosse Conference, Ohio State faces competition from the nation’s best women’s lacrosse programs year-in and year-out. Two of the league’s five teams made the NCAA tournament in 2008, including four-time reigning NCAA champion Northwestern.

The Buckeyes begin their spring season on the road, opening 2009 at American at 3 p.m. Feb. 13. Stimmel’s squad then travels to George Washington and Notre Dame for afternoon matches Feb. 15 and Feb. 22, respectively. Ohio State’s home opener comes against St. Bonaventure at 1 p.m. March 1 in Columbus. The Scarlet and Gray remain home for their conference opener against Johns Hopkins at 1 p.m. March 7 and a nonconference match at 7 p.m. March 11 vs. instate-rival Cincinnati.

The Buckeyes face Louisville (March 14) and Duquesne (March 22) on the road before coming home for a five-game homestand, including the ALC/ACC Challenge hosted at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Ohio State first faces Cal-Berkley at 7 p.m. March 24 and Canisius at 1 p.m. March 29 before playing host to the ALC/ACC Challenge April 3 and 5. In that tournament, the Buckeyes welcome Penn State, Maryland and North Carolina. A tilt against league member Vanderbilt wraps up the Buckeye homestand at noon April 12.

The Scarlet and Gray end the regular season on the road, heading to Detroit Mercy April 14, Penn State April 19 and Northwestern April 22. The team returns to Penn State, for the 2009 ALC Conference Championships April 30-May 2.