A heartbreaking finale

Rachel Jones

The Kent State field hockey team came home from Washington, D.C. last night in an unusual atmosphere. The blasting music or movies that usually fill the bus were turned down as its passengers reflected on their 2-1 loss to American in yesterday’s NCAA play-in game.

“There’s a lot of broken hearts on this bus right now,” Kent State coach Kathleen Wiler said last night. “They wanted to keep playing, so they’re pretty upset.”

The players took the field against the Eagles with a 15-6, 8-2 Mid-American Conference record, focused and prepared to move on to the NCAA tournament.

But they had a tough opponent in No. 9 American (18-3, 5-0 Patriot League).

“Kent State field hockey has a good reputation, and American is a strong opponent who has gone to the NCAA tournament before,” Wiler said. “We both knew it was going to be a good fight.”

With the Eagles taking nine shots and three penalty corners and the Flashes taking six shots and five penalty corners, much of the game was played in the midfield. Wiler said the teams were pretty evenly matched.

“It could’ve gone either way,” she said.

It started off in favor of American when the Eagles posted a goal in the 14th minute. Senior goalie Caroline Suitch blocked a shot from American senior midfielder Ann van Erp, but the rebound went to freshman forward Lotte van de Mierop who made the first goal.

American scored again in the 28th minute, putting the Flashes behind 2-0 in the half.

Kent State returned in the second half with a penalty corner in the first two minutes. Junior back Amy Wimsatt took a pass from senior forward Rachel Miller and sank the Flashes’ first goal.

“We had them on their heels in the second half,” Wiler said. “We had the opportunities but came up short.”

Junior forward Debbie Bell took a last ditch effort to tie it up, firing at the cage in the 68th minute. But American goalie Hannah Weitzman blocked it.

“We were right there,” Wiler explained. “We were right at the doorstep. But sometimes in sports, you give your greatest effort, and you don’t get what you want.”

Despite the loss, Wiler told the players they have a lot to be proud of this season.

The Flashes made their presence known early in the season, defeating No. 8 Syracuse on Sept. 4 and No. 5 Michigan State on Sept. 17.

The team carried out a six-game winning streak at the end of the season to earn a MAC regular season championship title.

After picking up two more wins against Central Michigan and Miami last Friday and Saturday, the Flashes won their ninth MAC championship crown.

The individual players stood out as well.

The MAC named Miller the tournament MVP and Conference Player of the Year. Only three other athletes have been Player of the Year two years in a row. The two-time All-American also led the conference in assists (13).

Bell’s name also stood out this season with a Kent State record for most career goals (76). She led the conference in goals with 24 this season, which ranks her seventh in the country with 1.16 goals per game.

Posting six assists and nine goals, freshman Rebecca Lee won the MAC Freshman of the Year Award. She finished the season seventh in the league in goals.

Despite yesterday’s loss, Wiler said the players represented Kent State well and let everyone in the stands know how accomplished they are.

“I’m really proud of this team,” she said.

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].