The Kent State lacrosse team has not won a game since its inaugural 2019 season.
The Flashes lost all six games they played last season before COVID-19 caused the rest of the season to be cancelled.
KSU has lost all four games to start the 2021 season, all by nine points or more.
With a streak like that it would be easy for the Flashes to already feel discouraged, but the team remains optimistic.
“The team’s mentality is really impressive right now,” coach Brianne Tierney said. “Four losses can easily get you down and become really frustrating. But they come to practice and they work hard every day. They’re really looking forward to a win.”
The Flashes suffered a 15-5 loss to the University of Cincinnati on Sunday in a game that saw a 14-point run by the Bearcats.
Tierney said the team still played well in spite of the score.
“Last year Cincinnati beat us by seventeen,” she said. “This year we cut it to ten. And as the years go on, it’s going to change in that direction.”
Tierney said the Flashes are a team that looks to get better as their players get more experience.
KSU’s most experienced player, junior midfielder Abby Jones, has only 26 games under her belt.
The Flashes often play teams with players who have five seasons worth of experience.
“That experience is such a reality,” she said. “There’s certainly an advantage for a team that has so many years of experience. And we’re really still growing and learning.”
Tierney said the team isn’t using their inexperience as an excuse.
“Everybody lost last season too,” she said. “So everyone is in what feels like a deficit. We have some games coming up against teams with way less experience than us, and we’re at an advantage over them. We’re trying to use what we learned playing against a team like Cincinnati, who has had a few decent years, to improve.”
On Saturday, the Flashes play the University of Akron, which had its 2020 inaugural season cut short by COVID-19 after only seven games, and is currently 3-1.
KSU is also scheduled to play Youngstown State University twice this season. This is the Penguins’ inaugural season, one they had to prepare for in COVID times.
One area the Flashes will look to improve on is their defense. They have allowed an average of 18 goals per game.
This season KSU has allowed their opponents to go on scoring runs as 14-0 and 16-1.
In every game, the Flashes have allowed their opponent to build at least a 12-point lead.
Tierney said the defense’s communication was one of the main reasons for the poor performances.
“Some of the adjustments we need to make are being able to slide and recover while being on the same page,” she said. “On both ends of the field we need to work on communication. And four games of experience is going to help that significantly.”
Tierney said she has already seen improvements in her team.
“Cincinnati has a really potent offense and a bunch of strong shooters,” she said. “Aside from some fouls and free-position shots we gave up, I think defensively we played awesome.”
Tierney said that freshman defender Lily Miller has been helping improve their defense.
“[Miller] had some awesome interceptions,” Tierney said. “She’s really reading the other team’s offense well and gets the ball up the field for us.”
Tiernney said the team needs to get its high top more chances.
The Flashes are averaging around seven goals per game.
Jones and junior midfielder Madison Rapier lead the team in goals with eight. Sophomore attacker Kenzie Sklar is in second with four.
Jones also leads the team in shots on goal with 18. Rapier comes in second with 11 and Sklar in third with five.
“Building a good supporting cast around them is key,” Tierney said. “And that can change week to week. We need more movement off the ball and less of players sitting back and watching.”
Tierney said another key is for other players to step up.
“Jones, Rapier and Sklar are gardening some attention from the other teams,” she said. “They need teammates who aren’t afraid to test the other team’s defense and go at them hard. And I think they’re working on some chemistry down there.”
The team has already seen improvement in one area: draw controls.
In each of the first three games of the season the Flashes lost the draw control battle by double-digits.
Sunday against Cincinnati they were almost even, losing the battle 12-10.
Tierney said one of the main issues was having too many players go out for the draw control.
“It was a case of too many cooks in the kitchen,” she said. “We have a lot of good contenders there but we tried to focus on only three or four kids. And those players did an awesome job.”
Sophomore attacker Morgan Kubicki and sophomore midfielder Lexi Piekarski lead the team in draw controls with three.
Tierney said Kubicki put in a lot of work to become better at the draw control.
“[Kubicki] is really a student of the game,” Tierney said. “She’s really smart and did a great job studying and asking questions to progress in that area.”
Jimmy is a sports reporter. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.