The Kent State field hockey team (4-1) faces its toughest stretch of the regular season this weekend, with games at No. 8 Virginia on Saturday and No. 9 James Madison on Sunday.
This weekend marks a span of non-conference away games in which the Flashes will play three nationally ranked opponents in their next four games.
However, the games will give Kent State a good idea of where the team sits on a national scale and in the Mid-American Conference, coach Kathleen Schanne said. The Flashes received 23 votes for the top 20 this week, just behind MAC rival Ohio with 25.
“It just sort of worked out that way,” Schanne said about the back-to-back games against ranked teams. “(We) want to play tough competition heading in to the conference.
“Every conference game is an absolute battle. I think these teams are going to be a really good test for us.”
Virginia and James Madison have different styles of play and will test both sides of the ball against the Flashes this weekend.
“We all look forward to playing highly ranked teams,” senior back Stephanie Bernthal said. “The MAC is strong every year, so if we face good competition we want to carry that over into the MAC too.”
Virginia (4-1) poses a potent offensive threat. The Cavaliers have outscored opponents 18-4 in five games while outshooting the opposition 114-31.
Schanne said that team’s goal is to try to pressure the Cavaliers’ defense in an effort to keep the ball out of its own end.
“Looking toward Saturday, we’re really going to look to sort of attack their backfield,” Schanne said. “I’d say with JMU, similar to Lock Haven, their strength is in the middle of the field. So we’ll definitely change up the game plan with them.”
James Madison (3-1) controls play by halting the opposition’s offense in the midfield. That way, they are able to turn good defense in to scoring chances offensively, Schanne said.
The opposing styles of play faced off at James Madison Wednesday, with the Dukes beating the Cavaliers 1-0. The loss was Virginia’s first of the season.
James Madison’s only loss was a 3-1 defeat Sept. 7 at No. 2 Wake Forest. The Dukes have also played and beaten Ohio, which was ranked No. 20 at the time.
“Confidence is good (for us),” Schanne said. “Coming off two wins and a really positive weekend at home, (the players) are just looking forward to playing someone other than themselves.”
Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected]