Flashes draw comparison to dominant team of past

Chris Gates

9-1 conference record marks best MAC finish since 2000

In 2000, the Kent State field hockey team dominated conference play. That year, the Flashes recorded the only undefeated conference regular season in the program’s history, won the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship and appeared in the NCAA Tournament.

Eight years later, the Flashes are drawing comparisons to that team.

The Flashes’ (15-4, 9-1 MAC) 4-1 win at Missouri State on Saturday gave Kent State its best finish since 2000, and current Kent State coach Kathleen Schanne, a graduate assistant in 2000, took notice of the similarities between the two teams.

“They were very focused game by game,” Schanne said of the 2000 squad. “They stuck to the game plan. They had really good chemistry.

“We have really good chemistry. There’s a lot of laughing, and they enjoy being around each other.”

Schanne and her staff broke this season into phases. The conference slate was considered phase two, and she said she was very pleased with the way her team took each opponent seriously.

“I think we did a really nice job of that,” Schanne said. “I told the team (Saturday) that, as a staff, we’re really proud of them.

“I was really proud of the way they played. They stayed focused, and we’ve put ourselves in a really good position going into the tournament.”

In beating Missouri State, the Flashes had to do it the hard way. The Bears took a 1-0 lead into halftime, keeping the Flashes’ offense quiet for much of the first period.

“We had a lot of opportunities,” Schanne said. “You can kind of see that in the stats with the shots. We just were a little bit unlucky and (had) unfortunate breaks.

Game Notes:

&bull One more award?: Debbie Bell’s 43 points exceeds that of last year’s MAC Newcomer of the Year, sophomore midfielder Rachel Miller. Miller finished 2007 with 33 points.

&bull Solid season in net: Sophomore goalkeeper Caroline Suitch finished the season with a 1.24 goals against average, the lowest since Jessica Creeden posted a 0.76 mark in 2000.

&bull A helping hand: Junior midfielder Allison Kittelberger’s two assists tied her for first on the team with 11 during the regular season.

“(We) came out in the second half and just stuck to the game plan, and we just started putting it in the net, which was sort of what we thought would happen.”

Just 11 minutes into the second half, freshman forward Debbie Bell opened up what would be a 10-minute span that decided the game.

Bell took a pass from junior midfielder Allison Kittelberger and converted for the goal to tie the score at one. The goal started to build momentum and was the first of four consecutive goals to close the game.

Junior forward Natalie Barrett looped a ball over Missouri State goalkeeper Jessica Schuster’s head to make the score 2-1 about three minutes after Bell’s goal. Then sophomore midfielder Rachel Miller took another setup by Kittelberger on a corner play to extend the lead to two goals about seven minutes later.

“I think we did really well,” Bell said. ” … We stuck to our Kent State game and came out with what we were after, which was great.”

Bell ended the scoring, netting her second goal of the game and 20th of the season with a minute and a half remaining. The two goals earned Bell the conference’s regular-season scoring title with 43 points (20 goals, three assists).

“I’m happy with it, but I can’t take the credit for that,” Bell said. “I think the biggest thing is (that) assists are more important than goals. It’s easy to stand there and put it in, but to do the work to get the goal is a completely different thing.

“I am happy with it and proud of it, but I have to say that the credit goes to the other 20 people behind me getting it to where it comes to me to go to the goal.”

Bell and the Flashes are done celebrating the regular season, as they start preparing for this weekend’s MAC Tournament in practice today. While they might be able to take confidence in the fact that that 2000 team went on to win the MAC Tournament by a combined score of 9-1, the players don’t want to get caught up in a great season and forget the real goal: winning the conference tournament and making the NCAAs.

“They’re proud of what they’ve accomplished thus far, but they’re not done,” Schanne said. “I think they’re focused on this first game, and that’s what their sights are set on.”

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].