Spring sports breakdown


Joe Koch, senior outfielder, hits the ball at the game against Youngstown State on April 12. Photo by Jackie Friedman.

Rachel Jones

Mother Nature is considering changing seasons from winter to spring, but the Kent State sports teams are already in transition.

While some teams have already started spring competition or competed in the fall, the spring season is a fresh start for the athletes to raise a new standard and accomplish new goals.

The sports ready to kick off their spring seasons are softball, baseball, track and field and men’s and women’s golf. Here’s a breakdown on how the teams look so far and what to expect this season:

Women’s Golf

The team so far: Kent State coach Mike Morrow said the warm weather has been playing to the golfers’ favor. “We’ve been outside practicing quite a bit,” Morrow said. “We’re pretty far ahead than we normally are. That’s a good sign.”

The players to look for: The top scorers this fall were senior Mercedes Germino and freshman Jennifer Ha. Despite having two strong seniors graduate last spring, Morrow said the starters are mostly upperclassmen: three seniors, one junior, one sophomore and two freshmen.

“The team gets along really well,” Morrow said. “That is key.”

The important tournament: Although Morrow said each tournament will be difficult this spring, the first major tournament — The Lady Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, on Feb. 12-14 — will be crucial to starting the season on a good note.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge of playing the top teams in the country,” Morrow said.

The goals for the season: To keep up with those top teams, Morrow said the golfers need to work on making the best out of bad days on the links.

“Some days aren’t that great in golf, but we just have to score a little bit better,” Morrow said. “If we can do that, we’ll be really up there.”

Men’s Golf

The team so far: After losing three seniors – including three-time MAC Player of the Year John Hahn – Kent State coach Herb Page said it seemed like the team was starting from scratch at the beginning of the year.

“We came in this fall with everyone thinking, ‘Wow. We aren’t going to be that good,’” Page said. “But we’re better than we were last year.”

The players to look for: “The real, real pleasant surprise is our transfer (sophomore) Kyle Kmiecik,” Page said. “He transferred back to Kent State — he’s from Cleveland but spent a year at Ole Miss — and he’s cracked his way into the lineup after the first tournament.”

The other standout on the links is senior Mackenzie Hughes, who is Canada’s top amateur golfer for 2011.

The important tournament: With the 21st-most difficult Division I schedule in the country, the Flashes have a lot on their plates. But Page said he is mostly concerned with the end of the season.

“The most important week for us is the NCAA Championship (May 29-June 3),” Page explained. “We want to peak at the end of the season. We want to try to win that battle.”

The goals for the season: The bar is set high for the No. 17 Flashes, who finished in the top 20 in the nation the last two seasons.

“The standard has been set, so that’s the expectation,” Page said. “These young men came here to get in the hunt for that. We set a new standard in the fall. If they believe in themselves and get very confident, we’ll have a chance.”


The team so far: Even this early in the season, Kent State coach Karen Linder said the team is doing very well right now.

“We have a good mix of upperclassmen and young kids,” Linder said. “The team is coming together really well.”

The players to look for: “Senior Sarah Starr is probably going to be our designated player, initially,” Linder said. “She’s hitting the ball really well.” Starr will have defensive support from senior Mary Holt, who is transitioning from shortstop to third base.

“She’s looked really good in practice,” Linder said.

The important game/tournament: The other teams in the Mid-American Conference seem to be pretty balanced this season, so Linder said the UNLV Invitational Feb. 10-12 will be the biggest test.

“Our first weekend out, we’re able to play Oklahoma, who is ranked,” Linder said. “They were in the World Series last year. I think it’s good for us to see where we’re at and what we need to work on.”

The goals for the season: To perform at its best this season, the team needs to succeed in what Linder calls the four phases of the game: pitching, defense, offense and mental toughness.

“At times, we look good at each one of those areas,” she said. “It’s just looking good at all of those areas all the time. I also think it needs to be consistent from the start of the game to the finish of the game.”


The team so far: Kent State coach Scott Stricklin said although the team is younger than those in the past, he likes what he’s seen so far. The players have also taken advantage of practicing outside, which will better prepare them for games.

“It’s positive to be able to get on the field in intersquad and see the guys in a game-like situation,” Stricklin said.

The players to look for: Despite a younger team, Stricklin said he’s seen strong leadership qualities from seniors Jimmy Rider, Joe Koch, Ryan Mace, David Lyon and David Starn. “The guys that we’ve expected to be really good have done that,” Stricklin said. “We expect a lot from them, and they’ve delivered so far.”

The important tournament: Stricklin said it’s important to start every season with wins, but this season’s opener is against one of the toughest opponents: No. 9 Georgia Tech. The Flashes will face the Yellow Jackets in the first two games of the Rock Hill Coca-Cola Classic Feb. 17-19.

“It’s a big weekend for us,” Stricklin said. “It’s going to be a great challenge.”

The goals for the season: Part of the reason why the team is so young is because the team had a lot of seniors graduate last spring. Stricklin said the main goal this season is to fill the holes these players left behind.

“We feel like we have the talent to do that,” Stricklin said. “The young players are very talented and athletic. We’re hoping to pick up where we left off last year.”

Track and Field

The team so far: With indoor season wrapping up, the track and field team will start the transition to outdoor meets in late March. Most recently, the team competed at the Sykes and Sabock Challenge Cup on Feb. 4. Out of 16 teams, the women finished fifth with 55 points and the men finished 11th with 20 points.

The competitors to look for: Soaring to the top for the women’s team is senior Kim Preston. The pole vaulter snatched first place at her last two meets. At the Youngstown State University Invitational at the Watson and Tressel Training Site on Jan. 27, Preston set a WATTS record by clearing 13’2.25”. She tied the Sykes and Sabock meet record with 13’1.5”.

On the men’s side, senior Aaron Crabtree and sophomore Bo Crabtree have been leaving their mark in the throws. Bo finished third in the weight throw at Sykes and Sabock with 61’5.5”. At the WATTS, Aaron won the shot put with 55’6.25”, and Bo finished second with 60’2”.

The important tournament: The indoor season will close its doors with the NCAA Indoor Championships March 9 and 10. A strong finish will be crucial to the team’s outlook on the spring. The NCAA Outdoor Championships are June 6-9.

The goals for the season: To excel this season, the team needs to be consistent across the board. This involves succeeding on the track and in the field. If the athletes can accomplish their own personal goals and achieve personal records each meet, the Flashes can do well in the MAC and NCAA Championships as a whole.

Contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].