LAKE TWP. Building a program is rarely easy and typically, the early years are the most challenging.
For Lake girls lacrosse, being one of the youngest programs in the area has come with plenty of bumps and bruises, but despite their 1-11 record, the Blue Streaks have their eyes on laying the building blocks for future success.
“In order to keep a positive mindset, I am constantly reminding them that they are the foundation of this new program,” head coach Holly Axline said. “It is a brand new program, and many of them are new to lacrosse. My players know that if they play the best they can and are learning each day, then that is all that matters.”
A 10-game losing streak to start the season was a difficult time for the entire team, as a roster where approximately 75 percent of the players are either underclassmen or players new to the program took time to come together. Along with having to learn the game, players had to learn how to play with new teammates. Playing three-time state semifinalist Jackson in the first game of the year, a 25-0 loss, was an auspicious way to begin the season, but Lake did its best to regroup and over the course of the next nine games, had four games decided by five or fewer goals.
The losing streak nearly came to an end April 22 in a road game against Poland Seminary, but the Blue Streaks came up just short in an 8-7 defeat that left them wondering what they needed to do to get over the hump.
For days later, they hosted Poland again and this time, a strong defensive effort led to the first win over the season,an 8-2 triumph that made a big impact on the team.
“The win against Poland really helped them see that they can play like a team and overcome obstacles,” Axline said. “We had played them a few days before, and we lost, so this showed the girls that if they put their minds to it, they can really change the game in their favor.”
Offensively, Lake is led by Devan Shyjka (28 goals) and Natalie Mizer (nine goals), with Avary Snyder and Emma Pascu tied for third in scoring with seven goals each.
“Avary Snyder on midfield has worked really hard,” Axline said. “She is a natural leader and is really able to keep the team's heads up when they start to get down on themselves. She is one of my leading scorers and also has really improved her defensive skills as she plays midfield.”
Another new face who has made an impact is Isabelle Fierro, who started the year playing midfield, but shifted to defense and has brought what Axline described as a “constantly positive” presence to the back end of the field.
As a group, the Blue Streaks are focusing on becoming more aggressive. Axline noted that for a young team, there is often a challenge of getting players to assert themselves and to be willing to stand in and trade physical play with older, more experienced teams.
To offset that inexperience, the coaching staff has tried to build camaraderie and connectivity within the team and allow the better chemistry to create an environment for learning and progress.
“Because the team has been starting to really learn how to trust each other and play well together, we have been able to work on plays and different tactics to help them grow and progress in their lacrosse career,” Axline said.
As the offense has worked to improve and be more assertive, the defense has taken on an added level of responsibility on the field. According to Axline, the defense has shouldered more pressure in order to give the offense time to get on track and done its best to step up and keep the team in games while the offense styles in.
Communication on the field has been key and as players learn how to communicate better with one another on the field, they are better able to share the burdens and responsibilities on their end of the field. It’s one of many building blocks the Blue Streaks are still working on putting in place, but as the season nears its end, they know that the process is in progress.
Reach Andy at 330-580-8936
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