While most students were gone for spring break, Ladies lacrosse spent two weeks dropping teams left and right. With a perfect 6-0 start under their belt, the team returned to Mavec Field Saturday to face their first North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) opponent of the season, Wittenberg University.
Kat Englert ’18 racked up four goals, Jane Symmes ’16 won six draw controls and keeper Allie Dumas ’18 made 11 saves to keep the game close for the first 59 minutes. But every minute counts, and with 29 seconds left in the game, Wittenberg’s (6-1; NCAC 1-0) Olivia Lash knocked in the game-winning goal to give her team a 13-12 victory over Kenyon (6-1; NCAC 0-1). Saturday marked Kenyon’s sixth loss in a row to Wittenberg over the past six years, but the Ladies remain level-headed about both the loss and their hot start.
“It was a back-and-forth game,” Kelley Russell ’16 said. “We didn’t play our best. We definitely did not play our worst.”
As for the winning streak, Englert said the out-of-conference games made for a soft start to their schedule. “That’s usually how we start our seasons,” she said. “We’re a great team this year and it’s showing, but we didn’t think we could walk into this game or any game without having to fight for it.”
The loss aside, the Ladies have showcased a bevy of strengths so far, including standout defensive play. They have leaned on their defense to win game after game — perhaps even leaned on it “a little too much” in Saturday’s game, according to Symmes.
So far this season, Kenyon has given up an average of just 6.5 goals per game, the stingiest mark in the NCAC by almost a whole point. Dumas has also impressed as starting goalkeeper. She leads the conference with 8.67 saves per game and lays claim to the only shutout in the NCAC so far.
According to Englert, the Ladies also have depth on their side this year. A strong first-year class has bolstered their bench, and some members have excelled in starting roles, like Cassie Hudson-Heck ’19, who amassed 10 points on March 10 in just her second game with the Ladies.
The game against Wittenberg tested the Ladies’ depth when a strike to the knee in the first half sent Symmes limping off the field. She did not return until the second half, but played the rest of the game through pain in her knee. As of Tuesday, she was sitting out practice, but said she hoped to be healthy by the team’s next game.
Symmes’s injury could prove a chink in the Ladies’ armor. Several players said the team needs to improve in its transition from defense to offense, where they struggled to control the ball on Saturday. No one could help more than Symmes. First in the conference in both draw controls and turnovers per game, she fights hard to win valuable possessions for the Ladies. If Kenyon wants a shot at the postseason, they need Symmes at the top of her game.
Kenyon has not made the NCAC tournament for two years now, and the team needs a winning record in the conference if it wants to avoid a third season on the sidelines. Symmes knows better than anyone the urgency the Ladies need to accomplish their goals this year.
“Kelly, Lauren and myself have just really been trying to show them the leadership to make people really want to win,” Symmes said of the captains’ approach to leading the team. “So we were like, let’s make bigger goals than before. We want to host the finals, so we’re not being like, ‘Oh, let’s maybe make it there’ — no, let’s host the championship game.”
Though the tougher test of conference play lies ahead, the Ladies have won the games they should. A path to the postseason is theirs for the taking. The Ladies go on the road for their next game, an April 2 showdown against the undefeated College of Wooster Fighting Scots (7-0; NCAC 1-0).