Flashes prepare with grueling early schedule

Cody Erbacher

Field hockey looks to improve by playing tough opponents

The Kent State field hockey team set up a rough nonconference schedule to prepare the Flashes for the Mid-American Conference.

Leading into Friday’s matchup against No. 6 Virginia marks the second nationally ranked team Kent State will face in its first six games this season.

Kent State coach Kathleen Schanne said the schedule is a stepping stone to continue on last year’s success, and the tough teams help the Flashes get better.

To explain Kent State’s tough schedule, Schanne said after finishing last season as a top-20 nationally ranked team, “this program will always be looking to get better.”

The Flashes last faced a ranked team when they hosted No. 12 James Madison Aug. 30, which ended in a 3-2 loss.

Following the James Madison game, Kent State played California and Stanford, both of whom received votes in the Kookaburra/NFHCA Division 1 Preseason Poll. The poll has the top-20 national teams and an additional 19 that received votes.

Kent State lost to both California and Stanford during a three-game road trip in California last weekend.

The rest of the schedule doesn’t get easier.

Before starting MAC play, Kent State will play Lock Haven, who received votes in the preseason poll, and Ohio State, who was ranked 18th in the preseason poll.

Then, the Flashes will enter conference play. Both Ohio and Miami received votes in the preseason poll.

The Flashes look to end a two-game skid as Virginia travels to Murphy-Mellis Field today at 1 p.m.

“We had a great performance last year against Virginia,” Schanne said. “We got on the scoreboard first. The girls feel comfortable against an ACC team that’s ranked pretty high.”

Schanne said the team may be comfortable against Virginia, but it still needs to convert opportunities into goals, and the players need to tighten up the defense.

Virginia has eight starters returning from its 2008 season when the team made a trip to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. Both of last season’s leading scorers, sophomore midfielder Paige Selenski and senior forward/midfielder Traci Ragukas, are among the Cavaliers’ returning players.

Selenski and Ragukas both have one goal on the season.

“They have a lot of the same people coming back so it will help us because we know what their game is like,” junior goalkeeper Caroline Suitch said. “Hopefully we can come out with a better end result.”

Virginia enters today’s game undefeated in four games this season. Three of the Cavaliers’ games this season has been against nationally ranked teams.

Last year Kent State traveled to Charlottesville, Va., to play Virginia, who was ranked eighth.

During the trip, the Flashes lost 4-2. Junior forward Nicole Leach scored the Flashes only two goals. Suitch managed to save eight shots, but allowed four goals.

Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected] .