Field hockey rebounds with a win to end the regular season

Cody Erbacher

Kent State beats Ball State after falling to Miami

Sophomore forward Debbie Bell ignited the Kent State field hockey team’s offense yesterday with a career-high five goals in an 8-0 win over Ball State. Bell started scoring less than 10 minutes into the game and didn’t stop until the final two minutes of regulation.

Bell said she wanted to give her best performance in the team’s last regular season home game to send out Kent State’s seniors with a win.

“It was a great team performance,” Bell said. “We were really on today. It was a great day for the seniors.”

The team’s three seniors, midfielder Allison Kittelberger, forward Laurie Wilkins and back Kara Rhodenbaugh, were honored before the game yesterday.

With the win, Kent State (12-7, 8-2 Mid-American Conference) finished as regular season co-champions in the MAC and earned a first-round bye in the MAC Tournament. The Flashes share the title with Ohio after splitting head-to-head matches this season.

In Sunday’s match against Ball State, Kent State needed a win to secure a bye in the first-round.

Bell started the Flashes’ scoring when she lofted her first goal over Ball State’s goalkeeper after receiving a pass from junior midfielder Rachel Miller. Miller assisted on four of Bell’s goals, and totaled five assists on the day.

“Maybe it’s a foreign thing,” Bell said, referring to the fact that she and Miller are international students. “It’s a connection that your midfielders and forwards should have. We do a lot of training with the midfielders and the forwards.”

Bell leads the MAC in scoring with 28 goals this season and has been assisted by Miller nine times this season.

After 20 minutes of down time, Wilkins and Bell put two balls in the cage to wrap up the scoring for the first half.

Wilkins struck in the 28th minute, dribbling from outside the shooting circle until she got clear of the Ball State defenders and stood alone with the goalkeeper. Wilkins shot the ball past the diving Ball State goalkeeper.

Then Bell added a goal two minutes later to send the Flashes into halftime with a 3-0 lead.

The second-half offense for Kent State continued with similar success. Wilkins scored once, and Bell added three more. Sophomore midfielder Amanda Hoffman was able to find the back of the goal, scoring her second of the season.

“Everybody gave their best effort today, from people on the sidelines to people on the field,” Kent State coach Kathleen Schanne said. “I thought it was just completely awesome.”

Junior goalkeeper Caroline Suitch recorded two saves, but the defensive unit had a major role in her success. Defensively, Kent State held Ball State to two shots per half. A big part of the defensive success was because the Flashes maintained possession most of the game.

“I’d say we really came out and focused on our possession game,” Schanne said. “We talked about competing, which we did for every ball.”

During Saturday’s 2-1 loss against Miami, however, Kent State struggled to maintain control of the ball. The Flashes were unable to record a shot in the first half and were outshot 19-10.

The loss marked the second time in the MAC season that Kent State avoided a losing streak by winning the day after.

“They’re a very resilient group,” Schanne said. “I think they are capable of achieving a lot more than they think they can at times.”

Bell scored Kent State’s only goal to tie the game at one in the second half, but Miami answered five minutes later to finish the scoring at 2-1.

Kent State will return to action in the MAC Tournament, which will be held on Nov. 6-7 in Muncie, Ind.

Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected].