Clay girls lacrosse team learning to become winners

J. Patrick Eaken

Last year, the Clay girls lacrosse sent its first player ever to the collegiate level — Curtice native Jasmine Stringham is now a midfielder at Madonna University and the freshman is getting playing time.

Two years ago, in Stringham’s junior year, the Eagles were 5-8. Key players this year include senior Emily Ashley, sophomore Lexi Huntermark and freshman Kendra Stevens at midfield, senior Kiri Thibert at attack and sophomore Lainey Davis at attack and midfield, but only four are returning letter winners from 2019.

This year, the Eagles are learning to become winners. When they do not win, they continue to show improvement. 

Clay lost four of its first five games, but since, the Eagles have gone 3-2. In those two losses to Bedford (Mich.) and Anthony Wayne, the score was noticeably closer than the first time the Eagles played the Mules and Generals.

“We are 4-6 right now but the record does not reflect that. We are climbing the ladder the right way,” said third-year coach and former collegiate player and coach Jason Allen.

“Fundamentals have gotten better. We have one drill we do all the time, and we do that every single practice, and I think their catching and throwing has gotten better. That is huge. Overall, it’ is just pride. Everyone here wants to get better,” Allen continued.

Despite a lack of experience coming in, Allen says this is a team that is “never giving up and never stopping,” and if you ask his players, they have the same attitude.

On Tuesday, the Eagles defeated Lima Senior 15-10 and other wins have been over Findlay, 14-4, Maumee Valley, 15-2, and Central Catholic, 13-3. Clay has losses to AW twice, 18-9 and 8-6, Bedford twice, 10-2 and 9-7, Notre Dame, 17-1, and Sylvania Northview, 11-10.

Allen believes the team has gotten wins over the teams they should have beaten, but look at the scores of the second games against AW and Bedford. After blowouts in their initial meetings, the second games came down to the wire.

“To be honest, we have not had any really good wins because the teams we’re playing have been down and are not really that good. But I think the most surprising game was the Anthony Wayne game. We lost by two and the first time we lost by nine to them,” Allen said.

“In another game we lost 11-10 to Northview. That was a close game. I do not think there have been any big quality wins, but it is just the improvement on the field. What I always tell the girls is, ‘We made wins, but it’s not a win on the scoreboard. It is wins in what we will work on and what we will get better at.’”

Against AW the second time, Ashley and Thibert scored near the end of the first half to make it a 5-4 game at intermission. Ashley got her third goal with 6:23 remaining, but AW junior Lilly Schaller scored to take it back to a three-goal lead late in the game. Huntermark added the final goal for the Eagles with just over one minute remaining.

“The scene gets better every time we play — every single time,” Allen said. “They excite me every day. The first four or five games of the year were a little tough, but it has gotten better.” 

Ashley leads the team in scoring with 29 goals and three assists and she also noticed the difference in her team’s first and second games with AW and Bedford.

“I love how we are as a team,” Ashley said. “We are so close to each other, we never give up, and we have a great coach. We have learned so much in practice and the great thing is we just work together. We try really hard in practice. We are constantly pushing each other to our limits and our coach pushes us.”

Huntermark, a multi-sport athlete, recently picked up the game and she already looks like a natural on the field.

“It is my first year and I enjoy it,” Huntermark said. “We bond together as a team and we never give up on each other. We are always out here fighting no matter what the score is, or how it is, we just are out here fighting.”


Learning to attack

Thibert has 18 goals, Stevens has scored 16 goals and Huntermark has 10 goals and five assists. 

“Kiri Thibert she has the initiative to attack the goal at any time,” Allen said. “Lexi is a huge blessing to us and so is Kendra Stevens. Emily Ashley, our senior, she is huge. Game in and game out she never gets a sub. 

 “Lexi Huntermark is fast and has that drive to be successful and Kendra Stevens is also fast and loves the game. Lexi Huntermark and Kendra Stevens came from the basketball program at Clay and have been a really good addition to our team. They have picked up the game quickly and I think that if we can continue to get athletes to play lacrosse, I think that our program will get better and better.”

Ashley leads the team with 60 shots on goal, Thibert has 37, Stevens has 31, Huntermark has 30 and sophomore attack/defenseman Chloe Manville has five goals and two assists on 13 shots.

In fielding for loose balls, Ashley leads the team with 61 ground balls, Huntermark and Stevens have 59 each, sophomore attack Lainey Davis has 26, senior defensemen Espy Rogers and Ava Tilton have 20 each, junior attack Carleigh Maville has 15, senior attack Emily Morris has 14 and Thibert has 10. As underclassmen, Davis is a difference maker, Allen said.

“Lainey Davis she is very quick and has a great attitude,” Allen said.

Ashley leads the team in winning draws (face-offs), which often translates into ground balls, with 44, Huntermark has won 23 and Stevens 22.  Defensively, the team is lead by junior Heaven Lohmeyer and senior Makaeli Katchke.

“Heaven Lohmeyer is a leader and communicates well,” Allen said. “Mikaeli Katchke has a knack to always know how to get in that saving stick check.” Allen says Tilton also “has good speed and isn’t afraid to go one on one with anyone.”

In goal, sophomore Sydney Witek has faced 115 shots with 80 saves (.695 save percentage). Allen says Witen, who plays club lacrosse for the Ohio Lightning, is “very dedicated to the position.”

Allen expects Clay to finish “In the middle of the pack” of the Three Rivers Athletic Conference.

“We’re still a new team and a new sport. We still need time to grow the program,” Allen said. “The league is very good as Notre Dame, St. Ursula, and Central Catholic are always tough.”

The Eagles are fortunate to have Allen teaching the game. He coached collegiately at Defiance College and Indiana Tech, and his team was an NAIA national runner-up in 2018.




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