Women's Lacrosse: New Albany graduate Liza Hernandez excited for final run at OSU

DAVE PURPURA
dpurpura@thisweeknews.com
Ohio State's Liza Hernandez looks to pass during a game against Massachusetts on March 1 in Atlanta. Hernandez, a New Albany graduate, led the Buckeyes in goals, points, shots and caused turnovers before the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. She will return for a fifth season next spring one goal shy of 100 for her career.COURTESY OF CARLOS BAEZ

Finishing unfinished business was the main reason Liza Hernandez decided to return for a fifth and final season with the Ohio State women's lacrosse team, although it wasn't much of a decision.

One goal shy of 100 for her college career, the 2016 graduate of New Albany battled injuries throughout a stellar freshman season and again as a sophomore before scoring 55 goals over the past two years.

Hernandez, a midfielder, has started all 34 games in which she has appeared as a Buckeye and was off to another strong start this spring as a senior before the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"It was a no-brainer for me, really. I knew right away that I wanted to come back. I was excited and obviously grateful," Hernandez said of the NCAA offering all seniors this spring, regardless of sport, a waiver to return next year. "Looking back and knowing I had so many missed games, plus the feeling of unfinished business, I wanted another full year to develop and grow as a leader."

Hernandez will enter her final season with 99 career goals and 146 career points. She led Ohio State in goals (20), points (24), shots (52) and caused turnovers (7) through nine games this spring, in which the Buckeyes went 5-4, and never has been below third on the team in goals in any season despite being limited to nine games as a freshman because of a torn posterior cruciate ligament and 10 as a sophomore because of recurring stress fractures in her foot.

"She plays with so much confidence and she's really a creator on the offensive end," Buckeyes coach Amy Bokker said. "Her selflessness and recognizing when she needs to give the ball up and when we need her to take it (to the goal) is key. She reads defenses well in that way. I credit her a lot for her IQ."

Hernandez was a two-time All-American at New Albany, scoring 165 goals over her final two seasons and leading the Eagles to the Division I state tournament as a senior. She saw considerable playing time as a freshman in 2013 when New Albany won the Division II state title and committed to the Buckeyes that fall.

Hernandez made an immediate impact at Ohio State, amassing 21 goals and 13 assists to earn four consecutive Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors in February 2017.

She was sidelined three games into her sophomore season but returned to play the Buckeyes' final seven games in 2018 and finished with 23 goals.

Finally healthy as a junior, she started all 17 games and recorded 35 goals, 26 assists and 20 draw controls. She thrived even more this spring under Bokker, who was hired away from Stanford last fall to replace Alexis Venechanos.

"When I am healthy, I'm at my most confident. My junior year, I focused on my strength training and fitness because I knew that would help me be at my healthiest. That's why I was able to come out so strong," Hernandez said. "This year had so much potential. We were starting to play better (when the season was canceled). Knowing I have another year with them is huge for me."

Bokker lauded Hernandez's leadership abilities and relationship with freshman attackers Nicole Ferrara and Ashley Turner.

"It was evident on the field, but the hard work was off the field," Bokker said. "Liza took them under her wing, gained trust and that translated to their on-field work."

Hernandez graduated in May with a degree in business administration, specializing in human resources. She is pursuing a master's degree in sports administration and is on track to graduate after summer 2021.

Hernandez and goalkeeper Jill Rizzo were the only two of Ohio State's seven seniors to take the waiver for next year.

"I did some shadowings last year with a medical sales rep, but sports have always been my love," Hernandez said. "Getting that master's could open some doors for me. It's nice having that extra year to figure things out."

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

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