With the 2020 season cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak, two Ohio State women’s lacrosse seniors decided to put the uniform back on and finish what they started.
The NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to spring student-athletes March 30, and attackman Liza Hernandez and goalie Jill Rizzo didn’t waver in their choice to stay.
“As soon as I knew it was official that I had the opportunity to wear scarlet and gray for one more year, I knew I had to do it,” Hernandez said.
Head coach Amy Bokker announced Hernandez’s and Rizzo’s returns during a conference call March 31. After the news broke, Bokker shared her excitement and gratitude.
Hernandez and Rizzo are the only two seniors out of seven on the team who decided to come back for another season.
“I’m just glad they had the choice. We’re in a great spot that our Ohio State athletes are prepared for the one choice,” Bokker said. “There were a couple that were already in grad school and a couple that already had jobs. Some student-athletes aren’t that lucky.”
Before the NCAA decision was released, Rizzo and Hernandez already knew they would play for another year if given the opportunity. Rizzo was texting Bokker for updates, eagerly awaiting the news after seeing rumors on social media, Bokker said.
“Jill Rizzo and I were on a Zoom call with our coaches when we heard the news, and we both were overcome with so much gratitude and appreciation for Gene Smith and the athletic department for making it possible,” Hernandez said.
The team hadn’t started conference play when the season ended due to the pandemic. Bokker said there was a sense of unfinished business and disappointment because of how far the team had come in the first half of the season.
The returning pair are key players for Ohio State. Hernandez was the leading scorer for the past two seasons, while Rizzo holds the school record for career saves and finished No. 2 in the nation for saves in 2020.
Both were captains this past year.
“We’re excited to add onto the leadership opportunity for our younger players,” Bokker said.
Though the tight-knit team has kept in contact through Zoom and messaging app GroupMe, the pair is excited to get back to another season with its teammates.
“We have come up with a few team challenges to do virtually, which really helps us to stay connected with one another,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez said spending another year at Ohio State was an easy choice. Instead of heading into her original plan of a career in sales, she will pursue her master’s degree in sports management during her return.
“I love this team so much, and to have the opportunity to return to Ohio State to pursue higher education and to play alongside my amazing teammates for one more year — it was really no question for me,” Hernandez said.
Rizzo said she plans to become a collegiate lacrosse coach after her time at Ohio State, picking up tips from Bokker along the way.
“She’s just a special athlete and she wants to go on to coach. This helped us have a lot of great discussions and really helped both of us grow,” Bokker said.
Even though the first season of Ohio State’s rebuild with Bokker at the helm was cut short, the team is committed to finishing what they started next spring.
“Every time we stepped on the field this spring, there was growth,” Hernandez said. “I am looking forward to getting back to work and leading and supporting my teammates so we can put Buckeye Lacrosse back on the map.”