Defense carries field hockey to win on the road

Cody Erbacher

Flashes top Michigan in final away game

Defense has been key for the Kent State field hockey team’s success lately.

After defeating Michigan 1-0 on Wednesday, the Flashes (10-6, 6-1 Mid-American Conference) made it seven straight games where they held their opponent to two goals or fewer.

“I’m really pleased as a whole how we’re playing defensively,” Kent State coach Kathleen Schanne said. “(At Ann Arbor), we really showed an outstanding result. Their body position is well, and they’re tackling well.”

Leading the defensive stand for the Flashes is junior goalkeeper Caroline Suitch, who has recorded 30 saves in the past seven games and 68 total on the season.

“I’ve just been working really hard and working with our coaches,” Suitch said. “I’m just working to keep the goals out.”

Although Suitch earns the stats for the saves, she wouldn’t be able to do her job if she didn’t have the team helping her along the way.

“It starts with the field players in front of her,” Schanne said. “(Suitch) did a really good job against the shots that she faced, but the defense in front of her is a huge part in her success.”

Against Michigan, the defensive line allowed the Wolverine’s to take just six shots. Schanne said when the players do their job, the team as a whole can make a game against any team close.

“We really showed when we perform we can run with the best of them,” Schanne said.

The Wolverine offense was held scoreless for the first time this season. Kent State recorded its third shutout of the season, while Suitch held a team without a goal for the first time while in the cage for the entire game.

The last shutout Suitch played was the St. Louis game where she split time with freshman Kirstin Willders.

Senior forward Laurie Wilkins provided the Flashes’ only goal in the 58th minute off an assist from junior midfielder Rachel Miller on Wednesday. The goal was Wilkins’ sixth of the year and Miller’s eighth assist.

Michigan didn’t back down easily, though, as junior midfielder/back Meredith Way attempted two shots in the final two minutes. Her first attempt went wide of the goal, and Suitch blocked the second shot.

Kent State, coming off of its best road season since 2000 with a 7-3 record, will begin a three-game home stand Saturday against Central Michigan.

Schanne said the next three games will be tough because their opponents have already played the Flashes. The MAC is the only conference in the nation where each team plays each other twice.

“They know who our key players are, and they’re going to close you down,” she said. “We’re doing a good job playing through that; we just need to keep pushing.”

Kent State beat Central Michigan 2-1 in the last matchup Oct. 2. The last time Kent State lost to Central Michigan was Oct. 6, 2007.

“Last weekend was a little bit of a struggle,” Suitch said. “We just want to try to win the rest of the games so we can get a bye in the first round (of the MAC Tournament).”

Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected].