XENIA —With 7:36 remaining in Wednesday’s game, another teaching moment presented itself for Xenia.
Head coach Matt Bartley wanted to see his team organize its defense and stay focused in the game despite trailing Carroll by nine.
“Settle them down and be like, hey fellas we got to get it together just to kind of get them to relax because you could tell we were getting frustrated,” he said. “We were out of position, our spacing was off. So it was really just trying to get them to take a breath and calm back down and you know get back together.”
There’s been plenty of those moments for Xenia as it begins its second year as a varsity program, but the excitement in the program’s potential is seen on the field, sideline, and in the stands.
Lacrosse advancing beyond being a club sport at Xenia is one of the good things to come after COVID. Numbers have grown for the Bucs already with 26 players coming out this year, many of whom have never played before.
There’s a solid mix from freshman to seniors on the roster, with holdovers such as Tyler Kingsolver, Cole Board, Tobias Carter and Austin Galligan bringing experience and younger players like Gary Dewitt and Gunnar Stephen getting the full learning experience.
On the other side of the field, Carroll is in its sixth year as a varsity sport and head coach Clay Roberts recognizes similarities in the progress Xenia is making to what his team has done.
“I see a lot of promise with these guys,” he said. “We understand exactly where they’ve been because we were there ourselves. I’m sure that coach Bartley is going to build that program up and he’s gonna get it running.”
Roberts also stressed one thing he became impressed with is the number of players on the Xenia sideline.
“When I say this, I mean it with all the sincerity. I have never had a kid that once they came out said they hate it,” Robert said. “They’re like, man I wish I had to play this my whole years. Xenia is probably the same situation as us.”
Xenia tied Carroll late in the first quarter and had a fired up sideline as it made its way out for the second period. Those 12 minutes didn’t go as well as Carroll scored twice in the open 65 seconds on its way to an 8-2 halftime lead.
Carroll’s experience stuck out as it won the game 12-3 with five goals by Jack Asebrook and three from Eli Bey.
Bartley noted he could tell by the body language from his team it doesn’t know how to fully fight through those type of situations yet when an opponent gets on a run, but doesn’t believe it will take long to adjust
“It’s good to hear that Clay said that he thought we’re getting better because I do appreciate that,” he said. “Sometimes as a coach, it’s hard. I keep telling the guys we’re not going to measure you by the scoreboard. I’m not right now.
“I told them you’re going to measure yourself because you’re a teenager. And that’s what all you think that matters, but I can tell right now, we’ve already made great improvements from where we were when we played on the 18th.”
Some of the improvements come from just being able to look the part and see “lacrosse” taking place on the field. Xenia is able to look the part on the field, and at the same time able to look across the field and see how far it has to go compared to opponents.
The basics are still being stressed by the coaching staff, including the ability to pick up the ball and make passes. All while at the same time learning the ability to be checked or hacked by opponents and keep the ball in possession.
With so many new players, firsts are always occurring to build confidence. Freshman Jayden Bennett and sophomore Jake Jones both netted their first career goals on Wednesday.
When Xenia gets through the firsts and the learning experiences, it will be exciting to see what it can grow into.
“It’ll come in time and I think when these guys have some success, it’s fun to watch them play,” Bartley said.
Contact Steven Wright at 937-502-4498 and follow on Twitter @Steven_Wright_.