Field hockey wins MAC Championship

Rachel Jones

The Kent State and Miami field hockey played in an intense, back-and-forth battle for the Mid-American Conference Championship on Saturday.

Tied 2-2 in the 68th minute, junior forward Debbie Bell sank the game-winning goal, leading the Flashes to their ninth MAC Championship title.

“We’re just so happy we came away with a win,” said Kent State coach Kathleen Wiler. “It was really a hard-fought battle by both teams.”

When the Flashes found out they would face co-MAC regular season champions Miami for the title, senior goalkeeper Caroline Suitch said she knew it was going to be a difficult game.

“Miami’s a tough team,” Suitch said. “We knew going in it wasn’t going to be an easy match, and we’d have to go out and leave it all on the field.”

The RedHawks snatched the opportunity for the Flashes to advance towards the Mid-American Conference Championship last season, eliminating them in the semifinal game 2-1 in overtime.

But this year, Kent State got its revenge.

The intensity from both teams was evident by the scoreless first half. But Miami broke the silence in the 45th minute.

Senior midfielder Rachel Miller responded five minutes later to tie up the game.

Miami scored again in the 54th minute, but Bell tied it up again just 30 seconds later off an assist from freshman midfielder Rebecca Lee.

With both sides of the field constantly one-upping each other, Suitch had to really concentrate on her goalkeeping techniques.

“I had to keep reminding myself to stay calm and stay composed,” Suitch said. “If you get too high or get too low, you’re not going to be able to play the way you know how to play.”

Her process proved to be efficient, as the score remained tied at 2-2.

Although Bell sank that momentous goal in the final minutes of the game, the Flashes could not let down their guards.

The RedHawks earned a penalty corner with 25 seconds left in the game, making it possible for the championship game to reach overtime territory. But Suitch said she was not worried.

“I just knew that our penalty corner defense was really strong and was going to get it out at all costs,” she said.

The strong defense and two saves by Suitch finalized the Kent State victory and earned the Flashes their championship title.

“It felt great. It felt amazing. It’s just so special,” Suitch said, unable to describe how she felt after the win. “We lost two games in the first round of the MAC (during the regular season, and) then we came back and won all of these games. It was great. I don’t know how to explain it.”

Wiler said she was proud of how the players battled until the last minute to finish off the game. And the fact that it was Miami (14-7, 9-3 MAC) made it that much better.

“But really, it was the two top teams in the conference battling for a championship (Saturday),” Wiler said. “(And) we came out on top.”

The Flashes (15-6, 10-2 MAC) will face the Patriot League Champions American University in an NCAA Play-in game on Tuesday at 1 p.m.

“They’re traditionally a really good team, so it should be a good game,” Wiler said.

The winner will then play in the NCAA Tournament, but Suitch said the team is trying not to get too hyped up about playing the Eagles (17-3, 5-0 PL).

“It’s like any other game,” Suitch said. “Everyone needs to stay confident, composed and ready to take on another team.”

You can contact Rachel Jones at [email protected].