When Kent State Field Hockey opens Mid-American Conference play on September 15 at Appalachian State, the Flashes will look to build on their record-breaking 2016 campaign in which they won a program record 14 games as well as their third straight Mid-American Conference championship.
“It was the same as any offseason, we have one goal in mind and that is to win and really show other teams how hard we’ve been working for this,” senior Alison Harmatz said. “I try not to think about it any differently because the pressure can either hurt you or help you, and to just think of it as another game.”
Harmatz had a stellar year in 2016, as she finished with 29 points, which lead the team. She also record 14 goals, three of which were game-winners. She was also one of three Flashes to be named to the All-MAC first team.
The Flashes as a team also have won their last nine conference games, with their last MAC loss coming nearly two years ago when they fell to Missouri State 1-0 on October 11, 2015.
“We know that we have a target on our back because everyone wants to beat Kent State,” senior Jamie Fries said of the winning streak. “But, I think we go out there and play it just like any other game and don’t change anything. Sure, we’re a bit more nervous since it means more than regular games, but we just go out there and attack it with the same mentality.”
Harmatz echoed the idea of preparation leading to their winning streak.
“I think it’s the will to fight. We want it so badly and we really prepare ahead of time and get the strategies down. (Mid-American Conference) play is awesome. It’s such a thrill. You never know what is going to happen. We’ve just been super fortunate to come out on top, and I think the work that we’ve put in shows that.
The Flashes will have some gaps to fill personal-wise, as the team lost four seniors to graduation, a list which includes Madison Thompson (First team All-MAC), as well as Alexis Madeira and Andrea Rinehart (Second team All-MAC). The senior class left not only as the winningest class in Kent State field hockey history, but also as the only class to record a victory in the NCAA tournament.
“We lost a few key players (from last year) and I think the other girls have done a really good job of stepping up this spring, so i’m excited to see where that takes us,” Fries said.
The Flashes signed eight high school players in April, a list that includes Azure Fernsler and Kylie LeBlanc, both of whom are goalkeepers and could be looked to right away, as Rinehart was the only player to record any playing time in goal last season.
This immediate action could lead to some growing pains for the underclassman, but Harmatz stressed that she hopes to pass the Flashes’ winning culture down to the underclassman.
“I think it’s really important for the freshman to know that they should not be afraid to make mistakes, and we will support them,” she said. “But we do expect a higher standard of performance just because all that we’ve accomplished, and hope to keep accomplishing.”
The Flashes home opener is against Miami (OH) on September 29.