Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
April 6, 2017
Swift ball movement and nose-to-the-cage cuts propelled the Kenston girls lacrosse team to a four-goal lead they wouldn’t relinquish during a road battle against Orange on Monday night in Pepper Pike.
Owning the time of possession in the first half, the Lady Bombers’ best defense was a good offense to open the door for a 5-1 lead by intermission, before going on to deliver Orange (2-1) its first loss of the season, 10-7.
“The fact that we were just moving the ball quickly and having really good cuts,” Kenston fourth-year head coach Kelsey Closen said of building an early lead.
“We weren’t taking too much time to set up, because their defense started pushing out on us,” she said. “So, we just wanted to move the ball quick enough so they couldn’t form a double or put too much pressure on the ball carrier.”
Returning from a 6-12 campaign, which included a pair of playoff wins, the Kenston girls improved to 2-4 with Monday’s victory.
Graduating nine players from a year ago, the Lady Bombers only have four players back from their 2016 varsity roster, including third-year starting senior goalie Gillian McMaster, who finished with seven saves on Monday.
“This year, we pretty much started off a brand-new team,” Closen said. “Those (nine) girls made up the majority of my team last year that we graduated. So, we had a lot of open spots, and the freshmen class we have is really talented, and it’s a big class. So, three of them earned varsity spots.”
Making an early print on the program, freshman attacker Lauren Liston tallied three goals on Monday night. The varsity rookie also scored six goals in the Lady Bombers’ home win against Mentor, 13-3, on March 27.
“She’s really good,” Closen said. “Lauren Liston, she definitely is a leading scorer every game. She’s just not scared to go to goal. She’s little, but she’s feisty. So, it’s good. She has really good stick skills.”
Junior attacker Lauren Eyler also netted three goals against Orange, as well as two assists, while sophomore midfielder Britta Treu finished with two goals and two assists.
Eyler also came up big with five goals in an 11-10 overtime loss against Kent Roosevelt on March 21. She is one of the four returning varsity players from a year ago, while Treu was bumped up to varsity amidst a small injury bug last season and played meaningful minutes in the playoffs.
“We have three or four players who have the most amount of points for us, but it’s not like we give the ball only to them,” Closen said about an offense that also benefitted from the tallies of junior attacker Sarah London and freshman midfielder Sophie Kinnett on Monday night.
“The offense works it around, everyone gets there cuts and everything like that,” the coach said. “We just have certain girls who are more likely to take it to the cage. And the experience of Lauren Eyler and Britta Treu just makes them more comfortable playing at that level. We haven’t been doing anything too fancy yet, until everyone gets comfortable with each other, but we’re building relationships pretty quickly, I think.”
Also starting in the midfield are sophomore Sofija Raudins and freshman Julia Piazza.
Raudins, a three-sport athlete who also competes in soccer and swimming, was in the same boat as Treu last spring, getting bumped up to play meaningful minutes at the end of the season.
This year, Raudins has expanded her role as the Lady Bombers’ draw specialist.
“She’s a triple-threat – an all-around amazing athlete,” Closen said of Raudins. “She definitely has become a lot stronger taking draws and winning draws. If she has another tall girl on her, she’ll try to direct it to one of the other middies, but she’ll do a lot of self-controls as well and just catch it out of the air.”
After Kenston had the 5-1 upper-hand at intermission, however, Orange outscored the Lady Bombers, 6-5, in the second half with tallies from sophomore Cami Milstein and seniors Cori Schreibman, Rachel Blum and Renee Regalbuto.
Closen said Schreibman, a team captain, particularly got in a groove.
“No. 13 on their team is really good and really quick,” the coach said. “We just had a hard time slowing her down in the transition. So, there were a few girls on the Orange team who were pretty speedy. I think that was our biggest problem, being able to slow them down and get a body on them to keep them from getting to cage.”
Starting on defense for Kenston are seniors Alex Nardo and Mackenzie Kwak – both returning varsity players – and juniors Caitlin Pastor and Megan Fisher.
Nardo got some starting minutes last season, but, for the most part, it’s a pretty green defensive unit, Closen said.
“But their chemistry is really great,” the coach said. “They’ve come a long way. Their sliding has improved – talking, communication, everything. They trust each other, which is a huge thing for defense, and they’re always helping each other out.”
Having the experience of third-year starter McMaster between the pipes has eased the growing pains, Closen said.
“She’s been great about leading the defense,” the coach said. “She’s extremely vocal, telling everyone what to expect and everything like that. So, she’s definitely a leader on the field and off the field.”
The Kenston girls were scheduled to go back on the road against Hathaway Brown, a state semifinalist last season, on Wednesday night, before taking off for spring break and returning to their home field to play Brunswick at 7 p.m. April 19.
“We have a tough schedule, and, yeah, we are a young team, but we’re connecting and working together a lot quicker than I thought we would,” Closen said. “So, everything is coming together slowly but surely, and we know we’re going to start to get a few more wins as we continue to mesh and grow.”
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