Joining the ranks

Rachel Jones

The Kent State field hockey team can better its ranking in the NCAA if it overcomes two highly ranked teams this weekend.

While the Flashes’ last meeting with a ranked team ended in a loss, the team is striving for different results against No. 8 Syracuse on Saturday and No. 14 Ohio State on Sunday.

Kent State coach Kathleen Schanne said having a schedule with several ranked teams will benefit the players in the long run. The Flashes fell to No. 12 James Madison 4-0 last Sunday.

“Every weekend becomes a challenge and a test where we can prove ourselves,” Schanne said. “And we’re up to the challenge.”

Senior Nicole Leach said she likes playing ranked teams, but Sunday’s game against the Buckeyes holds a special significance.

The game

Kent State vs. No. 8 Syracuse, No. 14 Ohio State

When: 2 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Where: Buckeye Varsity Field at Ohio State

“We’re big rivals,” Leach said. “We haven’t beaten them in a few years, but it’s always exciting to play Ohio State.”

“It will increase our ranking if we win, I mean, when we win,” she added with a laugh.

A successful weekend could also help the Flashes earn an automatic bid from the NCAA in the future.

But before the Flashes look ahead to its weekend in Columbus, the team must fix some of the problems from last weekend.

“We really need to improve on communication,” Leach said. “The offense needs to talk to each other, as well as the defense, and vice versa.”

The team has to follow through with not only communication, but also shots.

In the game against James Madison, junior Debbie Bell had five shots on goal and freshman Rebecca Lee had three.

“We need to work on scoring those close goals,” Leach said. “We need to make the opportunities we have near the goal go in.”

Leach said the team is also working on creating better channels on the field to open up more shots on goal.

“It’s about being in the right spot at the right times,” the forward explained. “If we just play well, we can make those easy passes.”

Once the players understand how to better themselves on the field, Schanne wants them to focus on their opponents’ game plans.

“We’ve been watching a lot of video of the opponents to study their structures,” Schanne said.

Leach said the players are trying to “learn how Syracuse and Ohio State play their game,” hoping to know how the field will be set up before the Flashes take their first steps onto it.

But assistant coach Heather Schnepf reminded the players that not all game plans are permanent.

“Remember,” Schnepf told the players after Wednesday’s practice, “just because you see something on the tape, doesn’t mean they won’t change things up at the game.”

“But you have all of the tools. You just have to use them.”

Schanne said she has faith in the players and knows they have the ability to pull out a victory.

“I just want to see them fight,” Schanne said. “They have so much talent that if they fight every minute with all of their heart and soul, something really special will happen.”

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].