Ohio State freshman midfielder Liza Hernandez looks to score against Vermont. Credit: Courtesy of Walt Middleton – OSU Athletics

After finishing the 2017 season 6-11, the Ohio State women’s lacrosse team is motivated and hopeful for redemption since seven of its top scorers return for the new season.

“I think overall we have a nice blend of experience and some new people that will step up this year,” head coach Alexis Venechanos said.

The Buckeyes finished 0-6 in the Big Ten and were picked to finish tied for last with Michigan in the Big Ten coaches’ preseason poll. But they return 87 percent of their points.

“I think the mindset is we’re just focused on getting better everyday and we’re focused on playing the best Buckeye lacrosse,” Venechanos said.

Senior attacker Molly Wood has been an integral part of the team since her freshman year, serving as a starter for most of her career.

Wood led the team last season with 48 points and 71 draw controls. She finished the season fourth in the Big Ten in both goals and draw controls per game.

After being voted captain, Venechanos sees an even greater role for Wood.

“I definitely challenge her, her senior year, to be a complete leader both on and off the field,” Venechanos said.

The team also voted sophomore goalie Jillian Rizzo as one of the team’s four captains, the only one who is not a senior. As a freshmen Rizzo started 16 games and had 183 saves, the second-most in the season by a freshman.

“I think Rizzo helped us a lot, gives us confidence, continues to be a good leader and continues to get stronger day by day,” Venechanos said.

Sophomore midfielder Liza Hernandez has been working hard to get healthy for the new season. Hernandez started the first nine games of the season and received consecutive Big Ten Freshman of the Week awards before faced with an injury that ended her freshman campaign early.

“She hasn’t missed a beat since she’s been able to play,” Venechanos said. “She’s explosive, she knows how to finish, how to keep up with her teammates, and I think everyone is really excited for her and I know she’s been working extremely hard to get back to where she left off.”

The Buckeyes open the season in Annapolis, Maryland, against No. 10 Navy on Saturday at 1 p.m. Navy ranks as one of the top in the nation after making a final-four run last season.

“They do return a lot and they will probably have some new people stepping up for them so it will be a challenge and we’re going to be ready for the challenge,” Venechanos said.

Despite losing its last six games of the 2017 season, the team is moving forward and determined.

“This team is hungry, we’re motivated, and we’re in a good place right now heading into this weekend,” Venechanos said.