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Ohio State women’s lacrosse hopes ALC Tournament results propel chance for NCAA bid

Courtesy of Ohio State Athletics

The Ohio State women’s lacrosse team (9-6, 2-3 American Lacrosse Conference) is prepared to repeat its success against host school Vanderbilt in the 2011 American Lacrosse Tournament today. The Buckeyes earned a No. 4 seed in the tournament and are ranked 18th nationally. The Commodores (8-7, 1-4 ALC) are the No. 6 seed with a No. 19 national ranking.

When the two teams met during the regular season April 10, then-unranked OSU edged then-No. 14 Vanderbilt, 17-16, in a nail-biter at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Gabby Capuzzi, junior midfielder and team captain, said there is a confidence boost in knowing the team has defeated the opposition before, but said it needs to adjust for a Vanderbilt team that will be seeking revenge.

“We know they’re going to be out to get us,” she said. “We just have to come out stronger.”

During the April 10 game, the Buckeyes built a 12-5 lead only to see a second-half surge by the Commodores bring the deficit to one late in the game. Senior goalie Annie Carruthers said protecting leads was one of the primary focuses in practice this week.

“The main focus has been paying attention to things we have struggled with in the past,” Carruthers said. “More importantly, pushing ourselves when we get the lead to keep it going and not even let (the other team) back in the game.”

Three other ALC teams are ranked in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association poll heading into the tournament: No. 3 Northwestern, No. 4 Florida and No. 17 Penn State. Johns Hopkins, whom the Buckeyes defeated, 19-12, on April 30 in their final regular season game, is the only nationally unranked ALC team.

Penn State is the third seed for the tournament, and will face sixth-seeded Johns Hopkins on Thursday for the chance to play second seed Northwestern on Friday.

Senior attacker Brittney Zerhusen said the best aspect of this week is that all of the teams in the league are strong and have had success this season, making for a competitive tournament.

“It’s exciting to see how close everything is this year,” she said. “On any given day, anyone can take it.”

Coach Alexis Venechanos acknowledged that, with the strength of the conference, success in this tournament will go a long way in boosting OSU’s NCAA Tournament chances. The Buckeyes have not been selected to the national tournament since 2003.

“We’re just worried about the ALC Tournament,” she said. “If we’re successful in (that), we’ll have success in hopefully hearing our name next week.”

NCAA Tournament teams will be selected next week.

The players said they are excited for the chance to perform on a big stage.

“We came up short on a couple of our conference games this year,” Carruthers said. “We’re coming into this tournament looking to prove ourselves.”

Capuzzi agreed.

“We just want to go down (to Nashville) and make a statement,” she said.

The Buckeyes and Commodores face off at 4 p.m. in Nashville, Tenn. If the Buckeyes win, they will go on to face No. 1 seed Florida at 4 p.m. Friday.

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