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Comets’ junior defender Mark Gantman tries to slow down Olmsted Falls’ senior attacker Nolan Kozub during Solon’s defeat on Saturday afternoon at Stewart Field.

Like all teams in the Northeast Ohio region the Solon Comets boys lacrosse team is trying to find its footing after a lost season in 2020 due to the pandemic. It has been a greater challenge for Solon as head coach David Blue stepped down forcing the program to find a replacement. Head coach Casey Hogan says he knew he had big shoes to fill by taking over for one of the most successful boys lacrosse coaches in the history of Ohio but has gone about business as usual.

With a new leader at the helm Coach Hogan is installing a different system than the one established by his predecessor. The first-year coach explains that he did not expect it to be a seamless transition overnight and is not surprised that the Comets are still trying to grasp their new offensive concepts.

“We’re getting there. That well-oiled machine that we should be has gained a bit of rust so we’re still in the process of knocking that rust off,” noted coach Hogan.

As tough as it has been to learn a new system it has been a greater challenge on the defensive side. The Comets lost most of their starting defenders from last season so the defensive line is still on a bit of learning curve. It showed as Solon’s home opener was spoiled in a 9-5 defeat against the Olmsted Falls Bulldogs on April 3 at Solon.

The Comets’ defense has relied on the leadership of senior goalkeeper Josh Salisbury to pave the way early on. Coach Hogan received word just ten minutes before the opening face-off of the junior varsity game that Salisbury would not be active as he suffered a hand injury. That forced him to pull starting junior varsity sophomore goalie Blake Hoegler and have him warm up to start in the varsity game.

The Comets’ back-up goalkeeper didn’t look intimidated in his first varsity start early on. Due to the inexperience of the defensive line Solon’s keys to success to kick off the season has been for the attackers and midfielders to strike first and allow the defenders to ease in.

That was not the case as the Bulldogs broke through late in the first quarter as Olmsted Falls’ senior midfielder Anthony DeMarco put one in the net with 2:58 remaining. Junior attacker Spencer Lethridge doubled up the lead at the 1:28 mark off a nice feed from junior goalie Chandler Nathan. Olmsted Falls made it a 3-0 game with 9:40 left in the second quarter on an unassisted goal by senior attacker Nolan Kozub.

Senior attacker Charlie Rumizen brought the Comets back into the game by scoring Solon’s first goal with 6:03 left before halftime off a feed from sophomore midfielder Loukas Wu then set up senior midfielder Logan Cingel for the Comets second straight goal at the 3:32 mark. The Comets’ senior attacker was responsible for all five goals to celebrate his 18th birthday. Being the most experienced player on the offensive line Rumizen shouldered the load to ignite the offense.

“I need to have at least five points in the first half and get us started earlier,” said Rumizen. “We just take too long to heat up.”

The Bulldogs took back some momentum right before halftime on a goal by senior midfielder Noah Barratt off an assist from Lethridge with just :19 seconds before the break. Olmsted Falls stretched its lead out to three goals as sophomore midfielder Michael Candow scored an unassisted goal at the 11:09 mark of the third frame.

Rumizen kept the Comets afloat by feeding senior midfielder Caesar Salerno for a goal with 4:46 left in the third then scored his second goal of the afternoon at the 3:40 mark. Unfortunately, the defense couldn’t keep Solon within striking distance and surrendered four straight goals to the Bulldogs.

“Lacrosse is a game of momentum. Once they got two goals really quickly our defense just fell apart,” sighed Cingel. “We need to learn how to get back together and get to our roots and understand what we have to do.”

It’s been challenging for the Comets to break in a new set of defenders, but the team is not making excuses. This is just the reality of the situation and they are not the only team bringing in new faces with not much experience. Coach Hogan said he is not feeling discouraged and is especially thankful to have the leadership of both Rumizen and Cingel to show the newer players how it’s done. Solonr rebounded with a 13-8 victory against the Universtiy School Preppers on Monday evening. The Comets will lookto keep the momentum in their favor when they travel to face Walsh Jesuit on Friday evening in Cuyahoga Falls.

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