March 13, 2009

Stimmel Sees 'All-American Material' in Markwordt

by Daniel Malloy | Special to Lacrosse Magazine Online

Ohio State freshman Alayna Markwordt shoots on goal en route to a school-record-tying 11 points (six goals, five assists) in a win over then-No. 18 Johns Hopkins.
© Jamie Sabau

Sue Stimmel knew she was getting a standout midfielder when she recruited Alayna Markwordt to Ohio State. But she wasn't quite expecting this.

"I guess I didn't think in her fifth collegiate game she'd put up 11 points against a team like Johns Hopkins," the Buckeyes head coach said. "But I was happy about it."

Last Saturday Markwordt tied the school points record, posting six goals and five assists, as Ohio State trounced No. 18 Hopkins, 22-12, serving notice that the youthful Buckeyes will be a force in the talent-packed American Lacrosse Conference.

Ohio State (4-1, 1-0 in the ALC) hasn't had a winning conference record since 2003, when the Buckeyes won the league and took their most recent trip to the NCAA tournament.

Stimmel said this team -- which starts four freshmen -- has the ability to break into the NCAA field this year. But the challenge, she said, will be to get the players not to dwell on the postseason.

As the Buckeyes left their home turf after the Hopkins win, Stimmel told them they had 24 hours to enjoy the victory before preparing for a quick turnaround game against Cincinnati on Wednesday. Ohio State won, 20-8, improving to 5-1 with its next game Saturday at Louisville.

"We can't get too puffy about one win and make that our season," Stimmel said.

Markwordt, out of Glenelg (Md.) High, didn't seem to be caught up in her record-tying performance. She said she needs to get better at protecting her stick and being more aggressive, not backing out when she faces contact going to the net.

Stimmel credited that self-criticism as the key to Markwordt's big start. When the freshman arrived on campus in the fall, she didn't make a huge impression.

"Anybody who saw us play in fall wouldn't have really noticed her much," Stimmel said.

But Markwordt adjusted to the faster pace of the college game and started turning heads as spring practice began. Then, two days before the season opener, Brittney Zerhusen -- Ohio State's leading goal scorer last year with 36 -- tore her ACL, putting her out for the year.

Markwordt helped fill the void with a hat trick against American to open the season, but she drew more motivation from the Buckeyes' loss to No. 11 Notre Dame, in which she didn't register a point.

Markwordt came in the next week for additional practice and film work.

"I was frustrated after the Notre Dame game," she said. "That was our first real big challenge, and I just didn't do exactly what I hoped to do. I realized that I need to step up to the next level in order to be able to contribute against higher-ranked teams."

Hopkins was the next ranked foe on the schedule, and Markwordt gave a glimpse of her potential.
Stimmel credited the young star -- whose 17 goals ties her for the team lead with junior Kelly Haggerty, while her 27 points rank second -- for a grinding work ethic that could make her one of the nation's best.

"She's a hard player to shut down because she can score and she can assist, so she has great vision," Stimmel said. "I think she definitely can be one of our all-time leading scorers, if not our all-time leading scorer, and All-American material."

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