Flashes field hockey freshman continues to learn in the goal

Jahna Jordan, Kent State field hockey goalkeeper. Photo by Amy Loomis.

Jahna Jordan, Kent State field hockey goalkeeper. Photo by Amy Loomis.

Nick Shook

A typical freshman student-athlete has a remarkable opportunity in front of him or her: a full-ride scholarship, and a season or two to learn the collegiate game under an experienced veteran teammate.

Freshman goalkeeper Jahna Jordan’s story is a bit different. Instead of spending much of her first season on the bench, learning the ways of the game from an older teammate, Jordan was thrust into the starting position upon arrival on campus. She has been forced to learn the ways of college field hockey on the fly.

Jordan arrived on campus six days early, in order to get acclimated to life in Kent, and stayed in the house of teammates Amy Wimsatt, Debbie Bell and Carla Johl.

Jordan’s decision to join the Flashes’ field hockey team filled a very important void — graduation forced one of Kent State’s veteran goalkeepers on to the next stage of her life, and the other didn’t return for her fifth year of eligibility.

“Luckily we had Jahna coming in, and she’s kind of been our savior,” Wimsatt said.

The speed of learning how to be an effective goalkeeper in college field hockey has been substantially increased for Jordan, who is the Flashes’ only option in the net. Elissa Unger, a former All-Big Ten goalkeeper at Michigan State, has been able to coach Jordan for a couple of days during the practice week. The coaching staff focuses on helping Jordan improve with each day, whether it’s in practice or a game.

“As a coaching staff we pay attention to her every day, working on footwork,” said Katherine Wiler, Kent State coach. “She’s getting better every week.”

“I’m still trying to figure it out,” Jordan said. “I’ve gotten more acclimated to it, but it’s all so new to me and everything is falling into place. My teammates are really supportive.”

Coaching isn’t the only factor that the field hockey family hopes can benefit Jordan as the season continues. Bell, a senior and the all-time scoring leader in Kent State history, also takes plenty of shots at her teammate in goal during practice.

“It’s great to have an All-American on the team, because Debbie has such a huge shot,” Jordan said. “It has prepared me to face the hardest forwards and I’m very, very grateful to have her on the team so I can practice against her.”

“She’s adjusted well,” Wimsatt said. “When you have people like Debbie on our team who can hit the ball as well as anyone in the nation, you have no choice but to adjust quickly in practice.”

Jordan’s first collegiate game didn’t go as she had hoped. Her first goal allowed came early in the Flashes’ first game versus Northwestern.

“My first game, I was really nervous and I let my nerves get to me in the first half,” Jordan said. “The very first shot of my college career was right in between my legs and they scored.”

The veteran players on the team have made sure to continue supporting their young goalkeeper, whose numbers aren’t exactly outstanding so far in the 2011 season. Jordan has allowed 33 goals in nine games, but the blame cannot be placed on the goalkeeper alone.

“I think Jahna’s facing shots and saving balls,” Wiler said. “There’s 11 people out on the field; it’s not just Jahna’s responsibility to keep the ball out of the net.”

No matter what the final score is when the clock reaches zero, Wimsatt and her fellow teammates know that confidence is key to any future success that Jordan and the rest of the team will experience in 2011.

“She (Wimsatt) would send me texts saying ‘Hang in there, you’re doing good, keep your head up,’” Jordan said. “She’s just been really nice to me and has always supported me, even when the game hasn’t turned out so well.”

Jordan knows that she must improve in order to better serve her teammates on the field. Cutting down on opposing goals is clearly an important part of any future victories, but before she can make saves in goal, she must first work on the technical aspect of field hockey.

“It’s the little details,” Wiler said. “With every goalkeeper it’s decision-making, balance, basic skills; just really little things.”

Kent State begins its Mid-American Conference schedule Friday at Missouri State. The team hopes that the opening of conference play will serve as a turning point toward success, which has been elusive so far this season.

“We haven’t quite gotten it together,” Jordan said. “But once we put it all together, I think our team will be unstoppable. We have the talent, we just have to put it all together.”

Contact Nick Shook at [email protected] and @Shookie_Cookie.