It’s hard to miss the chip on the shoulder of the Ohio State women’s lacrosse team. When the Buckeyes began the season unranked, they knew they had a point to prove.
So, when No. 21 Johns Hopkins came to Columbus on Saturday for the final regular-season game, the Buckeyes let their sticks do the talking.
“We came in on a mission ready to win,” senior goalie Annie Carruthers said. “We’ve come up short the last couple of games, and I think we were ready to prove we cannot only win, but win well.”
If ‘winning well’ means drubbing a top-25-ranked opponent, 19-12, the Buckeyes accomplished their mission. Johns Hopkins was able to fire off 29 shots, only four fewer than the Buckeyes, but Carruthers and the defense stonewalled the attempts at a rally.
The Buckeyes, who began 2011 under the radar, have scratched and clawed their way to a 9-6 record and a No. 16 ranking. From the first draw to the final whistle, the Buckeyes have played with unmatched intensity.
“I think we were out to prove ourselves to the rest of the country,” Carruthers said. “We weren’t ranked preseason top-20 like we had been past years. We all know how good we are, and I think we wanted to show everyone exactly that.”
Junior midfielder Kirsten Donahue shared her teammate’s sentiments.
“I know we were supposed to be picked last in our conference, so to come out strong and just prove that we can get ranked and compete with the rest of the teams in the conference was a big goal for us,” she said.
After a rough start to the season, with two losses, the Buckeyes fought through the thick of their season, often pummeling lesser opponents. Five of the Buckeyes’ six losses came against opponents who were ranked higher.
“Some of the other games, we’ve been up early in the first half and we let people come back,” Donahue said. “We were aggressive, we played body D and we finished our shots.”
Donahue led the Buckeyes scoring, netting five goals out of just seven shots.
“I’ve had a couple rough games the last couple games,” Donahue said. “I wasn’t able to finish my shots. … I’m glad that I could finish them for my team.”
Coach Alexis Venechanos was happy with how Donahue led the Buckeye attack.
“She’s definitely a spark plug for us within the transition,” Venechanos said. “She’s been working on her shot after practice. … All the teammates trust her when the ball’s in her stick.”
Venechanos expects the same type of performance when the Buckeyes head to Nashville, Tenn., for the American Lacrosse Conference tournament on May 5.
“Every game we’ve been getting stronger,” she said. “We’re expecting the same thing in the ALC tournament. … We’re excited to be in and excited to play a strong Vanderbilt team.”
The Buckeyes squeaked out a 17-16 win against No. 14 Vanderbilt in the teams’ last meeting April 10. If the Buckeyes play with a stiff defense and a pressuring offense, they could again find themselves on the winning end.
“We’re playing with confidence,” Venechanos said. “We do play with passion. We play with energy. When we have those things, it’s a great formula for us.”