Field hockey team looks for victorious season

Rachel Jones

A month before pre-season began, the Kent State women’s field hockey team was already working on hits, improving its tackling and holding scrimmages.

Senior captains Rachel Miller and Stephanie Arbelaez decided getting the team together for summer practices would make preseason and the first few games easier to handle.

“We’re trying hard to get as many people together (as we can) during the summer so we can start on a high note,” Miller said. “Everyone seems to be in really good shape and ready and raring to go.”

While the players already have running and lifting workouts for the summer, the informal practices will give the Flashes an edge this year.

Anywhere from three to eight players congregate on the practice fields to improve on basic skills and even play some one-on-one.

Arbelaez said the sessions are meant for the players to improve not only their game, but also their team unity.

“It’s always good to get as many touches on the ball as you can get with your teammates before the season,” Arbelaez said. “You get to practice your skills and practice with the girls you’ll be playing with all season.”

Kent State coach Kathleen Schanne, who does not attend these sessions, won’t see the new, united team until pre-season begins. With three seniors leaving the team and five freshmen joining, she said she is excited to see what comes together this season.


2009 Record: 12-8, (8-2 MAC, 1st place in regular season)

Key Returners: Senior midfielder Rachel Miller and junior forward Debbie Bell

Key Departure: Forward Laurie Wilkins

Key Rookie/Breakouts: Junior back Carla Johl and junior back Stephanie Arbelaez

2009 MAC Tournament Finish: Semi-final loss to Miami

2010 Prospects: The team has players who are ranked high in the MAC and injury-free returning, so it should have a strong lineup. The competitive schedule should toughen the team up, allowing them to handle the MAC Championship and move on to the NCAA Championship. After the disappointment last season, the team seems motivated to not let that happen again this year.

MAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll Rank: 1st

“I think every year has a new team with new possibilities and new goals,” Schanne said. “Kent State’s field hockey team has a rich, winning tradition, and we’re just trying to build onto that foundation.”

The team is also looking to build from the disappointment it had last season.

The Flashes won their second-straight Mid-American Conference regular season title with an 8-2 record but were eliminated by Miami in the semi-finals of the MAC Tournament.

“With our last season getting cut short, we are definitely coming out even hungrier,” Arbelaez said. “We want to win more and to get ranked as high as we can.”

Miller, the reigning MAC Player of the Year, is confident about this season and is looking for the strong upper class to take last year’s loss and turn it into this year’s lesson learned.

“For the returning players, it’s just a matter of picking yourself up, learning from some of our mistakes and improving this year,” Miller said.

One of those returning players is junior Debbie Bell, who ranked second in the country last year with an average of 1.45 goals per game.

While Bell is sure to contribute offensively, the Flashes will really benefit from a full, healthy lineup returning.

Several Flashes were injured last season, but Arbelaez and junior Carla Johl were out for a majority of the season, leaving a hole in the team’s defensive core.

“My sophomore year, we had a really strong defense, and we were looking forward to picking up (that) progress last year,” Arbelaez said. “With me and Carla getting hurt, it kind of messed things up, but a lot of other girls stepped it up.”

With all injuries healed, the Flashes come into the season stronger and geared for more postseason success.

“We’re not dwelling on the past but looking forward to this season,” Schanne said. “We won a regular season championship with two players down, so we’re excited to have our full strength back and team intact this year.”

Arbelaez said she is ready for the challenge, and she and Miller both hope to pass that eagerness to play onto their teammates.

“We just have to step up to the plate and continue playing as well as we did in some points of the season last year,” Miller said. “I need to try to get everyone on the same page so that we’re all heading toward common goals, and we know what we want.”

A schedule including several top-20 teams will help the Flashes increase their chances of accomplishing those goals, which include another MAC Championship and a better shot at the NCAA Championship.

“Ending the season with a loss in the semi-finals is not what we wanted, so we have a lot to prove this season,” Schanne said. “I really do believe they’re up to the challenge.”

Contact sports reporter Rachel Jones at [email protected].