Another conference championship

Chris Gates

Flashes beat Ohio, win MAC Tournament

Members of the field hockey team jump in celebration after their 1-0 win over Ohio at Murphy-Mellis field Saturday after winning the MAC tournament championship. Daniel R. Doherty | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

WATCH a video about the field hockey team’s win.

As the Kent State field hockey team raised its Mid-American Conference Tournament championship trophy Saturday, it put the program back where it used to be: the team to beat in the MAC.

From 1998 through 2002, the Flashes won four tournament championships. With its 1-0 win over Ohio on Saturday, Kent State earned the eighth title in team history and first since 2002.

“It feels great,” Kent State coach Kathleen Schanne said. “I’m just so happy for the team. They really deserve every moment that they had through this tournament and through the regular season. They did a really nice job.”

The off-season prepared the Flashes for the regular season. The non-conference schedule prepared them for the conference schedule. And finally, the conference schedule prepared them for the tournament.

All that preparation resulted in the win over Ohio.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” junior forward Natalie Barrett said. “This is what everyone on the team has been working for, and it’s a dream come true.”

Game Notes:

• Two decades of success: The Mid-American Conference Tournament championship is the eighth since 1988, when the Flashes won their first in the program’s history.

• Clutch performer: Junior forward Natalie Barrett’s game-winning goal was her fourth career tournament goal.

• More honors: Kent State coach Kathleen Schanne was named MAC Coach of the Year, and forward Debbie Bell was named MAC Freshman of the Year at the MAC Field Hockey Banquet over the weekend. Seven Kent State players were named to the All-MAC Team.

A team-first attitude has been a theme throughout the season and a major contributor to the success of the Flashes. Players said individual accolades meant little to them because they were all focused on the goal of winning a championship.

Barrett, who scored the game-winning goal after more than 53 minutes of play, credited her teammates for setting up the lone goal of the game.

“It’s a team effort whenever we score,” Barrett said. “The most important thing is that we got the win. It was amazing. It’s just been months of hard work in the off-season . It’s a total team effort, and it’s just an amazing feeling.”

The goal was a huge blow to the Bobcats, who had been able to halt Kent State’s attack for much of the first half and the beginning of the second half. At halftime, Schanne made tweaks to the game plan, and it paid off.

“We had three points that we talked about,” Schanne said. “We really needed to execute with our game plan, and we just needed to clean up a few things. I just told them that we have to keep sticking to the plan.

“Stay with the plan, and the goals are going to start to drop. Only one dropped, but it was enough to get the win.”

Barrett got the goal off a pass from sophomore midfielder Rachel Miller and got enough of her stick on it to put the ball past Ohio goalkeeper Jessie Martin.

“The ball just came in the circle, the goalkeeper saved it and I was just in the right place at the right time,” Barrett said. “My teammates did all the hard work. I was just there to put it in.”

“It wasn’t the prettiest, but it went in.”

Beating the Bobcats by one goal is a reverse of the only blemish on Kent State’s conference record in the regular season. Ohio beat the Flashes 1-0 at Murphy-Mellis Field on Sept. 28, and the players couldn’t deny that revenge was on their minds going into the game.

“I think we wanted to come out with the win for that reason,” senior back Stephanie Bernthal said. “(Ohio) has been on top for a couple of years now, and we felt like we could hang right with them all the way through. We wanted to make that definitive today and really show that.”

Bernthal also said the title is more than just a ring for her and her teammates. The long season ending in winning fashion made the victory sweet, but the history made it even sweeter.

“Being a senior on the team, there have been a lot of years that we haven’t come out with this victory,” Bernthal said. “Just thinking about all of those players who came before us . we wanted to win this for them.”

Kent State is not done competing, however, as the Flashes will travel to play Massachusetts in a play-in game at 1 p.m. Tuesday. The winner will advance to the NCAA Tournament.

“We just have to be ready no matter who we get,” Barrett said. “So we just have to keep working hard. The season’s not over yet.”

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].