Womens lacrosse Ohio State has sights set on NCAA tournament redemption

OSU coach Alexis Venechanos running practice ahead of their Feb. 6 match-up with Vermont. Credit: James King IIWhile its season opener is not until Feb. 6, the Ohio State women’s lacrosse team already has its sights set on the Big Ten championship later this year.Senior defender Meredith Bushell and the rest of the Buckeyes are looking to overcome the disappointment of not advancing to the NCAA tournament last season.“We’re definitely using it to fuel our fire, we’re using it as a motivation,” said Bushell. “We were not happy with the results we had last year, so we’re looking to make it this year.”Prior to last season, OSU had made two consecutive NCAA tournaments and seemed to be in prime position to earn a third berth until they stumbled late in the season. This year, OSU coach Alexis Venechanos said she feels like the foundation that has been built in the previous years has their team trending up.“Our goal is to have that mission: to be playing in Maryland in May” Venechanos said. “Our last game right now is in April so, if we’re playing in May, it will be for the Big Ten championship and NCAA championship.”While the Buckeyes launched themselves to an 11-1 start in 2016, they dropped their last five games of the year, including an overtime loss to Rutgers in the Big Ten tournament, ultimately finishing at 11-6.“Knowing that (the Big Ten conference) is one of the tougher ones, it kind of excites us. It kind of adds something,” senior midfielder Paulina Constant said. “We’re definitely still excited. We are planning for every single one of those games down from Michigan all the way up to Penn State, Maryland and all of those games. We’re not taking any of them lightly and we’re excited to play each team, get to the Big Ten [tournament] and hopefully win.”OSU will need to find new sources of production on both ends of the field after graduating their two leading point-getters, Cian Dabrowski and Rainey Hodgson, along with their starting goalie Katie Frederick.“We have new faces on both ends of the goal, literally, and our goalie competition is fierce, it’s competitive,” Venechanos said. “I think this year we’re going to have a lot more balance, we have a lot of different types of looks. We have tall girls, we have short girls, we have lefties, we have righties, we have dodgers, we have feeders, so I think we’ll be more dynamic because of that.”The team is not shying away from the challenges that this season is going to bring them. Instead they are embracing it. Constant said she believes they will be successful by taking what worked well from last season and seeing how it will work for them this year.“Of course we had a lot of our attack graduate. But just encouraging everyone to step up, I think that’s a big thing for us,” Constant said. “Just making sure that everyone has the confidence. We have the skill, we just need the confidence to be able to do it.”While their first game against Vermont is Monday at 7 p.m. in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, the Buckeyes are hoping their last is in the NCAA championship game.“Our goal is definitely long term, but it’s on our mind daily: what are you going to do to get us to be playing in the NCAA tournament?” Venechanos said.