Second-year Clay lacrosse team sees improvement

By: 
Mark Griffin

Getting a new program off the ground doesn’t come without a few bumps in the road. Take Clay’s boys lacrosse team, for instance.
        Last year, the Eagles finished with a 2-11-2 record, “which was what we expected for being a first-year program,” according to coach Joe Kiss III.
        Clay entered this week’s games with a 3-4 record, and the Eagles are eligible this season to compete in the state tournament. They are in Division II, Region 5 with the likes of Central Catholic, Bowling Green, Southview, Northview, St. John’s Jesuit and Ottawa Hills.
        “You can see that our record shows improvement,” Kiss said, noting that the Eagles have already beaten teams that beat them handily last season.
        Bowling Green whipped the Eagles 16-2 and 11-4 last year, but Clay beat the Bobcats 7-0 this season for the first shutout in the program’s young history. Central Catholic beat the Eagles 11-5 last season, and Clay won this year’s rematch 7-2.
        “Last year, really, the focus was on basic fundamentals like catching and scooping a ground ball,” Kiss said. “If you can’t maintain possession, there’s no way you’re ever going to score. This year, with another year under their belts, they have those fundamentals down pat. They’re maintaining possession much better than last year. With that, now comes the possibility to go into more in-depth, lacrosse-specific things. Last year we couldn’t do that because we couldn’t catch and throw. They’re having a great time.”
        The Eagles return all 10 starters from last season, including senior midfielders Cameron Menchaca and Jacob Mosiniak, senior attack Jarod VanHersett, junior midfielders Zach Lambrecht and Zach Rowe, junior defenders Nathan Davies and Tyler Strasbourg, junior attack Austin Murphy, junior midfield/attack Greg Haas and junior goalie Luke Silva.
        Murphy and VanHersett are the team’s top two scorers.
        “Austin is aggressive, probably one of the more aggressive kids we have on the team,” Kiss said. “He’s not afraid to get into somebody’s face and try to force a turnover. He’s not afraid to go into traffic, just a fearless kid. Jarod, with his hockey experience, he’s an individual who excels more than some of the other kids with his stick skills and ball-handling skills. He’s also aggressive and a student of the game, and he understands where to cut and where to pass.”
        Kiss added that the Eagles’ offense and defense are “pretty balanced right now.”
        “We’re a little bit better on defense,” he said. “We need to make improvement on the offensive side with maintaining possession. We are a lot better, but we need to continue getting better at that. We just traveled to Avon Lake the other day, and those Northeast Ohio teams take it a lot more seriously and are more committed to it. They could handle the ball, and it showed.”
        Kiss was the program’s only full-time coach last season and he had one volunteer assistant. This year, he has one full-time paid coach and two volunteer coaches; all three assistants have college lacrosse experience.
        “Joe Carstensen played at Bowling Green and (volunteers) Mick First and Jason Lohner played at the University of Toledo,” Kiss said. First is Clay’s goalies coach, and his experience at UT has helped him improve Silva’s play this season, according to Kiss.
        “Luke has improved tremendously,” Kiss said. “Mick relays his experience to Luke, and Luke is getting much better at seeing the ball and getting the much tougher shots in the lower and upper corners. He’s getting a lot better with his clears, when to get into the crease and walk it up. He’s getting all of this from a very experienced coach.”
 

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