Up by a goal with 17 seconds on the clock, the Kent State lacrosse team was on the verge of its first win in 699 days.
The University of Akron had the ball on Kent’s end and was looking to score to send the game into overtime.
Zips redshirt sophomore midfielder Kaylee Riggins shoots. The ball smacks off of the goal post with a ping, inches away from the net.
The ball goes shooting towards the sideline. The Flashes scoop up the ground ball and sprint down the field as time expires.
Kent State (1-4, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) would win 9-8 in its first ever matchup against rival Akron (3-2, 1-1 MAC). This is the Zips’ first season playing games and KSU’s third.
“It’s a game of inches,” coach Brianne Tierney said. “It was a really good shot, and it was so close to sending us to overtime.”
Junior midfielder Abby Jones said she was “so nervous as Akron took their shot.”
“They scored with around two minutes left to make it 9-8,” she said. “And we were really hoping we could stop them. But our goalie played unbelievably well and she was a huge part of the win.”
Not only is it the Flashes’ first win in almost two years, but it is their first ever MAC win.
KSU last won a game in their inaugural 2019 season. The Flashes had lost all six games they played last season before COVID-19 caused the rest of the season to be cancelled and were on a four-game losing streak to begin this season.
This is the MAC’s first year with a women’s lacrosse league, which includes Youngstown State, Detroit Mercy and Robert Morris as women’s lacrosse’s only members.
Tierney said this game was the start of a rivalry.
“It’s always going to be tight between these two teams,” she said. “It’s always going to be a battle. And for it to come down to one goal like that is par for the course. The excitement of it bodes well for the rest of our season.”
Jones said beating Akron made their first win all the better.
“It felt even better to get a win against our biggest rivals,” she said. “It is a really big honor for us to compete in the same conference as the rest of KSU’s teams.”
Kent State had lost 12 straight prior to Saturday, but Tierney said all the hardship was worth the win.
“The other four losses [this season] and the lessons we learned from them led to this,” Tierney said. “And I’m just so excited for them. They did a great job pulling it off.”
Jones tied her career high of five goals and had one assist, accounting for six of her team’s 15 total points. But Jones gave the whole team credit for the win.
“We’re relentless,” she said. “And we play to the last minute. It was such a great feeling to get that first win. We were due for one.”
Tierney said the team is trying to get the most out of Jones’s offensive ability.
“We’re focusing on using her just on the attack,” Tierney said. “Conserving her energy so she can score goals, win those draw controls, and be smart with the ball. And she put it all out there. She adjusted when needed and kept her feet moving. She just keeps getting better.”
Junior midfielder Madison Rapier and freshman attacker Josie Helling rounded out KSU’s scoring with two goals each.
Jones said sharing the ball is a key to success.
“The biggest thing is for us to work as a team,” she said. “We just have to keep getting the ball to each other. So seeing those two get those goals was awesome.”
For the first time this season the Flashes’ defense held their opponent to under 15 goals on 25 shots.
Prior to this game KSU’s defense had been allowing an average of 18 goals per game and 36 shots per game.
Tierney said the defense played smarter this week.
“Their positioning and clearing is so much better,” she said. “And that comes with experience. Those four games under their belt really helped. They’re really starting to gel well together and at the right time.”
Freshman goalkeeper Taylor Monturo had 13 saves while allowing eight goals for a season-high .619 save percentage.
“[Monturo is] making the saves she needs to be making,” Tierney said. “And she’s really athletic out of the goal. We have three solid goalies who push each other every day. And I’m not sure Monturo has the day she had without the others.”
Jones said Monturo played a huge role in the win, pointing to the times she left the crease to pick off Akron passes.
“I loved seeing her run out and get those interceptions,” Jones said. “She didn’t sit back; she always put herself out there. And she’s so vocal and is always talking to us to lead the way.”
One area the Flashes’ defense looks to improve in is free-position goals.
Four of Akron’s eight goals were scored off free-position shots.
Tierney said the team needs to be more aware.
“When you’re caught unaware and try to stop the player from going to the goal that’s when you foul,” she said. “You’ve got to be two steps ahead and put yourself into a position to not foul while still being in their way.”
On Tuesday the Flashes play at Duquesne, which has yet to play a game this season.
Tierney said the team “hopes to find their identity in the game.”
“We need to gel together and just do well at what we do,” she said. “They’re certainly going to push us. They’re a tough team from the past. We need to use this game to prepare for conference play.”
The game will be held in Pittsburgh Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Jimmy Oswald is a sports reporter. Contact him at email@example.com.