Here at Eleven Warriors, we operate under a simple maxim: You can cover all the sports some of the time, and you can cover some of the sports all the time, but you can't cover all the sports all the time.
Not all of OSU's varsity athletes get their proper due. This is an attempt to rectify that with a multi-part series on Ohio State's 36 varsity sports across the year.
BASEBALL AND SOFTBALL
The baseball team started with low expectations. They performed well in the neutral-site tournaments that put northern teams at a disadvantage, sweeping the UCF Tournament and performing well in the Snowbird and Keith LeClair Classics. The Buckeyes took care of their early schedule, and heading into a big series against Indiana they had a 16-7 record and a Top 25 RPI. From there, the season sank into the muck.
Then they were swept by the Hoosiers and Nebraska, lost to a few mid-majors, dropped games against Big Ten basement dwellers Northwestern and Purdue and lost two heartbreakers in the Big Ten Tournament. The Buckeyes finished 30-28 (10-14 in Big Ten play), better than expected but still disappointing given the hot start.
Even so, there were positive signs of momentum. Ronnie Dawson and Tanner Tully made Collegiate Baseball magazine's Freshman All-American team; Dawson hit a team-leading .337, stole 10 bases and drove in 25 runs. Tully, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, went 6-3 with a 2.22 ERA, a WHIP of 1.05 and an elite strikeout-to-walk ratio of 7.57.
The Buckeyes lose three seniors (Tyler Giannonatti, MLB draftee Greg Greve and Tim Wetzel) and return a young core. Behind Tully, Dawson, Nick Sergakis, Troy Kuhn and others, they hope for an NCAA Tournament berth next year.
The Ohio State softball team had a season much like the baseball team's, finishing 30-25 (13-10 in Big Ten play). Without question, the highlight of the season was upsetting Nebraska to reach the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, where the Buckeyes lost to eventual champions Minnesota. Evelyn Carrillo, Taylor Watkins and Cammi Prantl earned First Team All-Big Ten honors.
The collegiate golf season is rather odd. Owing to northern programs' inability to play golf in the winter, the NCAA splits the season into fall and spring periods. Even at a climatic disadvantage the OSU women and men did all right, finishing 139-56-5 and 85-71-4 respectively.
The men's team had a rough fall, but they fared way better in the spring. A chippy Big Ten Tournament performance (6th place) saw them through to the NCAA Regionals, where the foursome of Boo Timko, Frederik Hammer, Tee-K Kelly and Max Rosenthal drove them to a 12th place finish. Hammer, a freshman from Rungsted, Denmark, had the team's lone individual win at the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate.
Led by Jessica Porvasik, Katja Pogacar and Claudia Lim, the women's team was among the nation's best for much of the year. A series of strong results moved the Lady Buckeyes into the top 25, and after a disappointing finish at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge the team snagged wins at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational and Big Ten Championship. A 5th place finish at the NCAA Central Regional propelled them to the Championship Finals, where they finished tied for seventh place.
Porvasik, Pogacar and Lim all return next year, along with Zoe-Beth Blake and Jan Chanpalagrsi; could they make a run at a national championship in 2014-15?
Men's and women's lacrosse each made strong bids for a conference championship, with the men winning the ECAC and the women finishing second in the ALC. The men went 3-1 in ECAC play to earn a shared championship. Though they lost in the ECAC Tournament semifinals, they made the last year before the formation of the Big Ten lacrosse conference count. Joe Meurer picked up an ECAC Defensive Player of the Year trophy. For the second consecutive year, Meurer and midfielder Jesse King earned USILA All-American recognition.
The women's team had more success against a slightly easier non-conference schedule. With a 13-7 (4-2) record, the No. 10 Lady Buckeyes entered the NCAA Tournament on a roll; unfortunately, a tough double overtime loss to Louisville ended their season. DeScenza earned ALC Goalie of the Year and IWLCA Second Team All-America honors.
The men's volleyball team had an uncharacteristic year, finishing with an 11-16 record (6-8 in conference). Though they recovered from a five-match slump late in the season, IPFW ended their year in the MIVA Tournament quarterfinals. The Buckeyes hope to get back to national championship form in 2014-15; they will be led by middle blocker Driss Guessous, who earned Second Team All-America honors as a freshman.
Ohio State has a women's rowing dynasty going. The team claimed its first national title in 2012-13, and in 2013-14 the Buckeyes went back-to-back. Both the first varsity eight and second varsity eight won individual national titles, and the first varsity four finished seventh at the NCAA Championship. Most impressively, the first varsity eight were a perfect 12-0 on the season.
Five teammates were recognized as Pocock All-Americans: Claire-Louise Bode, Victoria Lazur, Holly Norton, Catherine Shields and Ashley Bauer. Earlier this month, Shields was named Ohio State Female Athlete of the Year. Shields is only a junior, meaning that she, Big Ten Coach of the Year Andy Teitelbaum and OSU have a rare opportunity for a threepeat.
Another year, another national title for OSU's synchronized swimming dynasty. While Ohio State had standout individual and duet performers like Lorraine Hack, Yuliya Maryenko, Emma Baranski and Elizabeth Davidson, in the end OSU's only competition was itself. The OSU Scarlet Team won the team competition; if it hadn't, it would have been the second-place Gray Team.
With this win at the U.S. Senior National Championship, the synchronized swimming program is back atop the mountain for the first time since 2011.
In 2012-13, Blaz Rola was everything to the men's tennis team. He was a Big Ten champion, singles player of the year, and ultimately an individual and team champion. Now he is tearing it up on the pro tour. Losing Rola would be a blow to the men's team... right?
Not so fast. The men's tennis team won the national indoor championship in February, and in the spring the third-ranked Buckeyes fell just short of a second national title when they fell to UCLA in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. Peter Kobelt and Kevin Metka fell in the NCAA doubles final, and the two were named ITA All-Americans. A 33-4 record and Big Ten championship are fantastic accomplishments, as is an NCAA-record home winning streak. May next year have less heartbreak at the end.
The women's tennis team had a solid year of their own. Like the men, they were undefeated at home, finishing 12-0 (19-9 on the year). Following exits in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament and first round of the NCAA Championship, Gabriella De Santis, Miho Kowase, Sandy Niehaus and Noelle Malley received All-Big Ten honors. De Santis was named ITA Midwest Rookie Player of the Year.
TRACK & FIELD
Track and field is another one of those oddball sports with an indoor and outdoor season. Both the men's and women's team had their fair share of success.
At the NCAA Indoor Championships, the men's team sent Demoye Bogle and Donovan Robertson to compete in the 60-meter dash, along with Timothy Faust (200-meter dash) and the Big Ten champion 4x400-meter relay team of Champ Page, Jordan Rispress, Javon Walker and LaMar Bruton. With a seventh-place finish, Robertson was named a First Team All-American. The relay team were Second Team All-Americans, as was Ashlee Abraham, the lone woman to represent the Buckeyes. Abraham finished 16th in the 60-meter hurdles.
At the NCAA Outdoor Championships, the men's team placed Faust (11th place, 200-meter dash), Donovan Robertson (20th, 110-meter hurdles) and the team of Armand Austin, Ripress, Walker and Burton (16th, 4x400-meter relay) in the field. For their efforts, Faust and the 4x400 team earned Second Team All-American accolades.
On the women's side, Katie Borchers finished 20th in the 800-meter run, Alexis Franklin was 13th in the 400-meter hurdles, and the 4x100-meter relay team of Abraham, Aliyah Everson, Aaliyah Barnes and Chesna Sykes finished fifth. All earned All-America honors in some form.
How do we judge 2013-14 as a whole? There is a way to come up with a rough aggregate ranking: the NACDA Director's Cup. Buckeye athletics finished 25th in this year's standings, a ranking deflated by the exclusion of less popular sports in which the Buckeyes excelled, like rowing or synchronized swimming.
As this series has shown, throwing all 36 of Ohio State's varsity programs into one melting pot is unfair to the many diverse Buckeye athletes. Here's my opinion: the Buckeyes won national championships in several sports, came achingly close in others and had All-Americans in nearly everything. That's pretty damn good if you ask me.