The Kent State lacrosse team headed into the final game of the 2021 season looking to end the year with a win.
The Flashes found exactly that with a 20-11 victory over the University of Detroit Mercy on Saturday.
“We played our best game of the season,” coach Brianne Tierney said. “And to end the season the way we did is really special. Ending on such a high note is great.”
KSU scored four straight goals to start the game, but the Titans would rally back to tie it up. The rest of the first period would be back-and-forth and it was 7-7 at halftime.
The Flashes controlled the second half as they outscored Detroit Mercy 13-4.
KSU finishes the season 5-10 (4-6 Mid-American Conference) and is in fourth place. The Titans are 2-6 and in fifth. These standings are not final as more MAC games are still to be played.
Tierney said that teamwork was a big part of today’s win.
“All season we’re trying to gel together as a team,” she said. “But for much of the season a lot of our players were playing the game more individually. Today, they really saw each other and were more comfortable around each other. That factor showed in the win.”
Kent State outshot Detroit Mercy 37-23, and the Flashes’ 30 shots on goal were 10 more than the Titans.
KSU had averaged around 26 shots per game and around 20 shots on goal per game.
Tierney said the team “was smart with their possessions.”
“We had our heads up, and we were sharing the ball. Detroit held some of our typical scorers well, so a lot of our other players stepped up and played well.”
Junior midfielder Abby Jones had a team-high seven points with five goals and two assists.
Jones finishes the season with 38 goals and 48 points, both the highest on the team. Her 38 goals in one season is a program record.
Tierney said Jones does a great job seeing the field.
“She knows how to get inside and get past her defenders,” Tierney said. “She pulls out the goalie before she shoots. She’s just so fast, and she plays so differently that she becomes hard to defend.”
The Flashes caused 15 turnovers, three of them by junior defender Graceyn Dean. Dean ends her season as the team leader in caused turnovers with 22.
“Our lacrosse IQ has really gone up as the year went on,” Tierney said. “We played a little more disciplined, and we were just letting them come to us. We didn’t play as well when we were trying to chase at them.”
KSU’s five wins are the most in program history after winning two in the team’s inaugural 2019 season and winning none in the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season.
The Flashes started the season with a four-game losing streak, before winning their first game against the University of Akron in the first women’s lacrosse Wagon Wheel rivalry game.
KSU would win two of its next three games, but would end the season losing five of its last seven.
“We were an inconsistent team because we were so young,” Tierney said. “As we move forward, we’re going to build on the experiences we had this year. But with a season like this, with COVID-19 bringing canceled or postponed games, I’m just so proud of our team for continuing to play like we did.”
Tierney said an area the team greatly improved in over the course of the season was controlling the game better.
“We learned over the year to maintain our tempo,” she said. “We became better at maintaining the ball, and we got stronger at going hard at the goal when teams came at us.”
Despite finishing last in the MAC in draw controls per game with 12.20, Tierney said the team grew a lot in that area.
“A lot of the teams we faced had a stellar draw control group,” she said. “And our players did a great job overcoming it. They worked so well together and were so good at giving each other the right advice. Our future in draw controls is bright.”
Freshman attacker Jackie Wolford placed second on the team in points with 35 this season. She scored 27 goals and eight assists.
Tierney said the freshman class was one of the best surprises of the season.
“These young players really came in and pushed us even further,” she said. “They have such an intense love for the game, and the way in which they connected with each other was great.”
Junior midfielder Madison Rapier placed second on the team in goals this season with 31, despite missing three games because of an injury.
Rapier also led the team in draw controls with 36.
Tierney said Rapier’s performance was a highlight of the season.
“We got to see her step up again and again,” Tierney said. “There were a lot of games where she went off and scored a ton of goals for us. It was awesome to see her growth over the course of the season.”
Tierney said she expects big things from her program in the upcoming season.
“We’re gonna see some massive growth,” Tierney said. “This season was our tipping point. Our team is going to be so much more experienced. We’re not gonna be the underdogs anymore. I’m excited for next year, it’s gonna be different.”
Jimmy Oswald is a sports reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.