For the first time in program history, the Kent State lacrosse team has won back-to-back games.
After a 1-5 start to the season, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Three of the Flashes’ next four games are against Central Michigan and Robert Morris, the two teams that tied in a vote as the preseason favorite to finish first in the Mid-American Conference.
“It feels really good,” coach Brianne Tierney said. “It’s good for the program as a whole, and it’s great for our growth as a team. It gives us a lot of confidence going forward to some tough teams.”
KSU beat Youngstown State University 19-10 in the teams’ first-ever matchup on Thursday. This is the Penguins’ first season with a women’s lacrosse team. YSU, Robert Morris University and the University of Detroit Mercy are in the MAC as women’s lacrosse-only members.
The first half was all Flashes as they outscored YSU 10-4, including four goals in a little over a minute.
KSU would continue to dominate at the start of the second half, increasing its lead to 14-6 early. The Penguins would score four of the next five goals to pull within five but the Flashes responded with four in a row to finish the game.
“Everybody trusted each other really well,” Tierney said, “and they did a good job letting the game come to them instead of forcing things. It was great to see their growth.”
Sophomore attacker Kenzie Sklar said her team came in “on a little bit of a high” after beating Presbyterian College last Monday in one of its best offensive performances in program history.
“To get the win today was such an awesome feeling,” she said. “No matter if we win or lose, no matter how many times we lose in a row, we’re always ready to go into the next game. This is just the beginning of us showing how much we’ve grown as a program.”
KSU is 3-5 and tied with CMU for second in the Mid-American Conference. YSU falls to 1-3 and is in fifth place.
For the second match in row the Flashes had more shots, shots on goal, caused turnovers, ground balls and draw controls than their opponent.
“There were times we were winning those little victories but not winning the game,” Tierney said. “So it’s cool to see those little victories result in a win as well.”
Junior midfielder Madison Rapier continued her strong season with a team-high five goals and four draw controls. Rapier leads the team in goals with 22 and in draw controls with 20.
Tierney said that Rapier “still amazes me all the time.”
“She reads the other team’s defenders so well,” Tierney said, “and her timing is so good. She gets a lot of her confidence in the draw circle. She understands where the ball is going really well. And when she’s having a good day on the draw you know she’s gonna score a lot of goals as well.”
Sklar and junior midfielder Abby Jones each had three goals and two assists for a team-high five points.
Freshman attacker Jackie Wolford kept up her recent strong play with three goals. She has nine goals in the last three games.
Sklar said that the team having so many scorers is a big reason for their success in the last two games.
“Everyone on our team is a threat,” she said, “and that is scary for a defense because they have to focus on everyone. It also makes it easier on our offense because we know we don’t have to rely on only one or two girls making an impact.”
The Flashes caused a season-high 24 turnovers. Junior defender Graceyn Dean forced five of them.
“Dean was an essential part of our defense today,” Tierney said. “She was seeing those opportunities really well, and she took advantage of them.”
Sklar said that Dean is a leader on the defense.
“She’s great at communicating with everyone,” Sklar said, “and she knows what to say to get the others going. That just makes everyone that much stronger.”
Freshman goalkeeper Taylor Monturo allowed 10 goals with 10 saves for a save percentage of .500.
Monturo is sixth in the MAC in save percentage this season with .429.
Tierney said Monturo’s increased experience has helped boost her confidence and helped her play better.
“She is reading the game well,” Tierney said. “She understands when she should come out and make an interception over when she should just focus on the ball. And she continues to get better every game.”
Sklar said that Monturo has an incredible athletic ability.
“She can go and get those interceptions or those ground balls outside the goal,” Sklar said. “She does it because she knows she can beat half of the other players to the ball. It gives us a huge momentum shift.”
The Flashes play CMU on Thursday. The Chippewas are 4-5 and tied for second place with KSU in the MAC.
Tierney said that the Chippewas will be a tough and athletic opponent.
“We’ve done a better job lately of focusing on ourselves instead of our opponent,” Tierney said. “We’ve stopped scrapping everything and starting completely over for a new team. We’re sticking to what works and making some little changes here and there.”
Jimmy Oswald is a sports reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.