By Cam Moyer
Kennesaw State’s lacrosse team has been competitive the last few years, but never a true top contender. This year, the team has stepped up and shown they can actually compete for a championship.
KENNESAW, Ga. — It’s been a long time coming for Kennesaw State’s men’s lacrosse team. The team has consistently been ranked in the top 25 of the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association polls. Even so however, they were never seen as true championship contenders, consistently getting blown away by the top teams such as University of Dayton.
There’s something different about this year’s Owls team, however. They have a certain swagger, a certain confidence that this team can do big things.
“I’m thinking nothing short of a national championship.” senior attackman Cody Clark said.
On offense the team boasts the attack trio of Cody Clark, Tyler Mathews, and Edward Thorne. They are one of the most dangerous attack trios in the country, each averaging over five points per game. What makes them so good?
“Chemistry on and off the field. Me, Ed, and Cody know each other so well.” Mathews said.
The chemistry there between the three seniors allows for the Owls to run a pretty unorthodox offense. Rather than running a multitude of set plays, they are given a bit more freedom to improvise and try to create from wherever they see an opening.
Owls head coach Tyler Yelken is also the mastermind behind the team’s offense and really likes what he’s seeing from those three so far this season compared to seasons past.
“Last year, they were fighting each other on stats and stuff like that,” Yelken said. “But this year they really have a team first kind of mentality whereas our top two scorers from last year are now our top two assist guys.”
It’s that change in mentality to a true team first attitude that has helped see the Owls rise all the way up to #5 in the rankings.
There’s an old saying in the sports world that offense wins games but defense wins championships. That certainly holds true with this team. If the Owls are going to go deep into the MCLA playoffs this year, they will need a strong effort like they’ve gotten all season from their defense.
“The defense is definitely the core of our team right now,” Yelken said. “They shut down Grand Valley; they shut down Missouri Valley. You’re talking about two top 10 teams perennially that our defense shut down.”
The backbone of every defense is the goalie. The goalie is the leader on the field, constantly barking instructions to his defensemen. Owls goalie Connor Hanson has certainly done a great job leading the Owls defense this year.
The Owls still have a few crucial games coming up on their schedule. The biggest one is against #10 Reinhardt University on Saturday March 26. The winner of that will obviously have bragging rights to go along with more than likely the top seed in the SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference tournament. The difference between the top seed and second seed is huge, as it means an easier path to the championship.
The Owls also take on Emory University for the Battle of Atlanta trophy on April 13. The Owls will look to make sure the trophy stays in Kennesaw for the third consecutive year.
The polling committee for the MCLA consists of 30 coaches, three from each conference. Each coach ranks teams from 1-25. Each position is given a point value. First is 25 points, Second gets 24, Third gets 23, etc. all the way to 25th place. Points are then added up and teams are ranked by how many points they earn.
For the first time ever, the Owls are ranked in the top five. They know now that they are one of the top programs in the country and will look to continue to build from there.