LAKE TWP. Quietly, effectively, the Lake boys lacrosse team has put together an impressive season that has the Blue Streaks rolling toward the first OHSAA-sponsored postseason for the sport.
With an 10-4 record, Lake has relied on a potent offense that has gotten solid play from multiple scorers while its defense has been steady as well, providing good balance for a team that spends much of its time playing larger schools. The offense, averaging 11.3 goals per game, has scored in double figures in all but three games and head coach Mike Dixon attributes that production to an open style of play.
“Our offense has been our strong point this season,” Dixon said. “We have used a more free play style this season, letting the boys move the ball around and see what opens up for them and it has worked to our advantage.”
Senior midfielder Alex Kungle has led the way offensively, tallying 49 goals and 10 assists, along with amassing 109 ground balls. He’s had plenty of company in putting the ball in the back of the net as fellow seniors such as Tyler Butterfield (32 goals, 30 assists), Matthew Anderson (32 goals, 8 assists) and Trey Robinson (21 goals).
The balance led Dixon to note that the Blue Streaks “truly play team offense.” Strong play from first-year varsity players Brody Hanlon and Jared Yoder has helped, with Yoder performing will in face-offs and Hanlon showing promise as a long-stick midfielder. Their addition to the roster has bolstered the squad’s veterans and added more depth across the field.
The defense has been consistent throughout the year, allowing 11 or fewer goals nine times. There have been off nights, including losses to Wooster and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, but the defense has largely been able to keep pace with the offense and help keep the team in games.
The unit is backed by sophomore Hunter Bussey, who has found himself thrust into a larger role than expected and has been able to respond to the challenge and play well under pressure, recording a 62-percent save rate.
“He went from a sophomore pushed into the position into a team leader that his teammates can count on,” Dixon said.
The coaching staff has rotated players in and out on a regular basis defensively, trying to keep everyone fresh and also, developing more depth. According to Dixon, having a productive offense has also taken some pressure off the defense, which knows it doesn’t have to pitch a shutout in order to have a chance to win games. Often, Lake has been able to build leads and playing from ahead eases the stress level for defenders who know they have a cushion with which to work.
Add it all up and you have a team that hasn’t lost consecutive games all season. There haven’t been any double-digit winning streaks, but a series of short, three- or four-game ones that have stacked up against a schedule with four Division I opponents on it for the Division II Blue Streaks.
The ability to bounce back from losses, especially close ones like a 13-12 defeat to Orange in the season opener and an 11-10 heartbreaker to Green in Lake’s most recent game, has become a point of emphasis for the Blue Streaks.
“Our guys have taken pride in this. We come back to practice and get after it talking about what went wrong and getting back on the field at practice to fix mistakes we made in the game,” Dixon said.
The veteran coach noted that the schedule has also played a role in not having lost consecutive games, as each of its first three losses was followed by a home game. Lake is undefeated at home and being able to rebound after losses on a surface where they have an added level of confidence has been huge.
Following the tough loss to Green and regular-season games against Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin and Wadsworth, Lake will launch into the postseason hoping to extend its season for as long as possible. The OHSAA is sponsoring the lacrosse postseason for the first time, having made the decision as the sport continued its growth across Ohio in recent years.
As the tournament approaches, the Lake coaching staff has its eye on one specific area of the game as a place where improvement is needed if the Blue Streaks are going to have a good tournament run.
“One of the areas that needs work for us is our transition game, especially our clears,” Dixon said. “We have games that we are successful and we also have games where it is a struggle. We have been very inconsistent with that part of our game.”
Attention to detail makes a huge difference under the magnifying glass of the postseason, so if Lake is to write a winning chapter to end its season, the Blue Streaks know they’ll have to find ways to get their transition game in gear so it can complement their potent offense and solid defense.
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