Different paths lead to shared goal: to guide team defense from the net

Cody Erbacher

Goalkeepers Suitch, Willder anchor field hockey team

During practice, the Kent State field hockey goalies’ orders echo throughout Murphy-Mellis field.

Junior Caroline Suitch and freshman Kirstin Willders’ work ethics in practice have solidified their positions as the hidden leaders of the team. Neither of the goalies wears a captain’s band, but both are the backbone of the Flashes’ defense.

Whenever the team is in a game or practicing, the goalies’ shouts can be heard loud and clear instructing the defense.

“I need to control the defense because I need to set up a better shot for me,” Suitch said. “They can control the ball outside, so it makes my job easier.”

Suitch and Willders both started playing field hockey in seventh grade, but their paths to becoming goalies differ greatly.

Caroline Suitch

When Suitch started her field hockey career, her size affected her dream of being a goalkeeper.

“I always wanted to be a goalie, but they told me I was too small because I couldn’t hold up the pads. So they wouldn’t let me try out,” she said. “But in eighth grade, our goalkeeper moved away, so I begged to do it, and I just did it since then.”

Suitch said not playing in her freshman season drove her to work harder to be the Flashes’ goalie.

“I worked really hard with our defense and our whole team to get to the (NCAA Tournament Play-In Game) last year,” Suitch said. “Hopefully, we’ll get there again this year.”

Last season Suitch achieved All-MAC Second Team honors after allowing 26 goals with a .774 save percentage. This season has presented a new challenge for Suitch.

“(At practice) there’s been a lot of changes because we had a goalie coach last year and she’s gone,” she said. “I relied on her a lot on what I needed to work on.”

This year Suitch has been making sure she can keep calm and help the defense as much as possible.

She said she helps the team out most when games are close.

“I love games that are really close (because) I thrive under situations like that,” Suitch said. “I feel that if it’s a pressure situation, and it’s coming down to me, I can step up and do great things for our team.”

Kirstin Willders

Willders began her field hockey career in the field, but she knew that wasn’t what she was meant to play.

“I saw the goalkeepers being able to kick the ball, and growing up playing soccer, that’s something (I wanted),” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. I wouldn’t trade goalkeeper for field player any day.”

Willders made her first collegiate start against Lock Haven this year. Willders had eight saves in the 2-0 shutout. She has played 111 minutes this year and has 13 saves.

“As a young goalkeeper, it’s always a learning process,” Willders said. “Fundamentals are the concrete of everything, so I just need to hone in on that.”

Confidence is a major factor in making sure she doesn’t make too many mistakes, but Willders always knows she can do better.

Even though the pressure of goalkeeping is a bit harsh, Willders said she wouldn’t ever change her position.

“We joke around at practice about (changing positions),” she said, “but there’s nothing like kicking the ball through the foam.”

Contact sports reporter Cody Erbacher at [email protected].