Megan Kozar and Maddy Mead hoped that their success as Upper Arlington High School girls lacrosse players would serve as a springboard into helping establish the foundation of Kent State's fledgling women's program as freshmen this spring.
Kozar, an attacker, and Mead, a midfielder, helped the Golden Bears to four consecutive Division I state championships, a run that was extended to five in a row this spring, but in college, they faced the enticing challenge of setting their own standards.
"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."
Kozar did just that, ranking 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.
Kozar and Mead, both of whom committed to Kent State before their senior season at UA, were among 19 freshmen on a team rounded out by two sophomores as the Golden Flashes went 2-15 overall and 1-5 in the Atlantic Sun Conference.
Continuing to recover from two torn ACLs sustained in a five-month span in 2017 and for which she underwent surgery in June 2018, Mead played in 11 games, starting five, and recorded 18 ground balls and seven caused turnovers.
"The knowledge that Megan and I had, we know what it takes to be in a winning program and we wanted to help bring that to Kent State," Mead said. "You have to be disciplined in all you do. Anybody can have success. You just have to work hard enough and know the amount of work you have to put in."
Kozar and Mead were among three area products on the Flashes' roster this season. The other was Olentangy Liberty graduate Madison Rapier, a midfielder.
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.
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."