Flashes could clinch conference with a win

Chris Gates

Field hockey on verge of MAC season title

The Kent State field hockey team has been working toward one goal all season: winning the Mid-American Conference championship.

With a win over Miami tomorrow, the Flashes can do just that, as a victory would clinch the MAC regular-season title and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament in November.

Senior back Stephanie Bernthal, the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Week, stressed how important this weekend is for the team. The Flashes will play Ball State on Sunday after tomorrow’s game against Miami.

“Oh, it’s huge,” Bernthal said. “It makes or breaks it for us. We’re looking to build momentum and peak at the right time, going into the MAC Tournament.

“They’re both difficult opponents, so we’ll probably see them again. Yeah, we’re looking to bring everything we’ve got.”

Even though the game against Miami has such high stakes, Kent State coach Kathleen Schanne said the team’s approach will be the same it has been all year.

“Every week, our focus has been just to get better,” Schanne said. “Everybody on the team just finds something to get better (at). We’re really just focused on Miami and that’s it … focused.”

The RedHawks are one game behind the Flashes in the MAC standings and have had a knack for earning penalty corners this season. Miami’s edge over Kent State is significant, as the RedHawks hold a 142-83 corner advantage. Schanne said the team is concerned with not allowing any opportunities.

“We just are really focused on our defensive preparation,” Schanne said. “The mentality (is), we don’t want to let anybody in our circle. Really our goal is not to give them any corners.”

Defensive preparation has been a huge factor in Flashes’ success this season. Four Kent State backs have been named MAC Defensive Player of the Week this year. Along with Bernthal, freshmen Stephanie Arbelaez and Carla Johl and senior MaryKate Hanosek have also received the award.

In the past four weeks, at least one player has won a conference award. The players say these awards are nice, but they are a result of an entire team effort.

“It’s nice to get individual recognition, but I think it’s just more of a recognition as a unit,” Bernthal said. “I think we’re all playing well together, and it always makes each person look better when you’re playing well together.”

Because this season’s MAC Tournament is being held at Murphy-Mellis Field, a No. 1 seed and first-round bye, Schanne said, will give the team added confidence.

“It’s nice to have that bye,” she said. “I think we really have done a nice job this season taking it one opponent at a time, one half at a time and one pass at a time. We need to continue to do that if we want to have the success we’ve been having.”

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].