As a player on the first Kent State women's lacrosse team this spring, Madison Rapier knew she was going to be part of something memorable, regardless of the role she filled.
Still, the 2018 graduate of Olentangy Liberty High School did not anticipate one side effect of being a trail blazer.
"I was just thinking the other day that it helped me grow so much as a person and a player," said Rapier, a midfielder. "Being a part of something so different, something that nobody's ever done before, all of us grew. It helped us mature as players, teammates and people, having to step up as underclassmen and be leaders. I handle situations better than I used to. It definitely molded me more as a person."
Rapier was one of three area products on the Golden Flashes' roster, along with 2018 Upper Arlington graduates Megan Kozar and Maddy Mead. They were among 19 freshmen on a team rounded out by two sophomores as Kent State went 2-15 overall and 1-5 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Kozar, an attacker, ranked third on the team in both goals (26) and assists (9) in 14 games, 10 of which she started. She scored a program-record seven goals March 16 in a 16-12 loss to Detroit Mercy.
Mead, a midfielder, started five of the 11 games in which she played and recorded 18 ground balls and seven caused turnovers.
Assistant coach Morgan Fee helped New Albany to the Division II state championship as a senior in 2013 and went on to play at Ohio State.
Two more area players, Dublin Coffman midfielder Lexi Piekarski and Olentangy midfielder Kenzie Sklar, will join the program this fall as freshmen.
Kent State lost its first 10 games before defeating Delaware State 21-6 on March 29. The Flashes' other win came against Howard, 17-1 on April 14.
"We were essentially chameleons. Every game was different," said Fee, who joined head coach Brianne Tierney's staff in July 2017, 19 months before the program's first game. "That made it hard for teams to scout us and we were unpredictable on our own because we were growing together. We had more short-term goals this season and we're looking more at long-term goals for next year."
Rapier overcame a broken rib suffered last fall and a pulled hamstring sustained during the season to record 39 draw controls, which ranked second on the team, as well as eight goals and three assists. She started each of the 13 games in which she played and forced a program-record five turnovers in a 13-10 loss to Butler on Feb. 22.
Kozar and Mead admitted that it was an adjustment going from UA, which has won the past five Division I state championships and has just one loss against in-state competition since 2014, to a program that had yet to prove itself.
"When we came in to high school, we looked to the seniors to learn from them," Kozar said. "(At Kent State,) we leaned on each other. It was up to us to write the book. I tried not to have too many expectations when it came to stats. It was more, 'Can I make the team look good wherever I can?' I just wanted to step up and do everything I could."
This year's recruits have the same motivation.
Sklar committed to Kent State in December 2017, before her junior season, after receiving interest from a handful of Division II schools. In addition to helping Olentangy to a Division I, Region 1 runner-up finish this spring, she found time to watch most of the Flashes' games and attended an intrasquad scrimmage during her official visit.
"Knowing you're part of the start of a program, that you'll get to help get things going and set some records, that's something I'm excited about," Sklar said. "They won two games with an (almost) all-freshman team but I got to watch most of the games and saw how they got better. In that scrimmage, everything seemed more individual. They worked together a lot better later in the season."
Piekarski already had some familiarity with Kent State, from which an uncle graduated and her mother obtained a master's degree. She committed to the Flashes last November.
"If UA girls were going there, I figured I ought to give it a look," Piekarski said. "The girls are so dedicated. They want to make the team grow. Their attitude made me want to be a part of it."