Field hockey shows promise at home but falls on the road

Chris Gates

Flashes split games with St. Francis, Ohio State

The opening weekend for the Kent State field hockey team was a mixture of success and failure.

With the home opener against St. Francis Saturday and then a road game at Ohio State Sunday, the Flashes faced two very different teams. The result was a split, with Kent State winning at home 9-0 and losing on the road 2-0.

The Flashes started the weekend, and the season, by playing just like they did against Robert Morris Aug. 21. Strong defense led to a multitude of offensive chances and a 9-0 win over St. Francis.

Junior Natalie Barrett, sophomore Rachel Miller and freshmen Debbie Bell and Chelsea Sickel all scored two goals, with sophomore Nicole Leach adding another in the win.

“I’m happy, overall, with the way the forward line played,” Kent State coach Kathleen Schanne said.

“We’ve been working on shooting to the professional side of the goal and being there to finish. Overall, as a forward line, I was really pleased.”

The shot totals were just as lopsided as the score. Kent State outshot St. Francis 35-5 and didn’t allow a shot for nearly 24 minutes to start the game. At that point, the Flashes already had a 4-0 lead.

St. Francis’ junior goalie Erin Reifsteck, who finished last season 12th in the nation in save percentage (.798), struggled due to constant pressure from the Flashes. Reifsteck allowed nine goals while stopping 12 shots.

With a 6-0 lead going in to halftime, Schanne was able to sit some of her starters to rest them for Sunday’s game in Columbus. Barrett, Miller and junior Allison Kittelberger sat out the first 10 minutes of the second half.

That rest was needed in Columbus the next day against a Buckeyes team that was playing in its first game of the season. Kent State fell into the same trap St. Francis did at Murphy-Mellis Field, registering only one shot all game, and losing 2-0.

Schanne said the difference was Ohio State’s ability to execute on the opportunities they had, while Kent State was unable to do so.

“We just sort of had a couple of letdowns in the first half,” she said. “We weren’t executing real well. From there it was a hard-fought and physical game. We just weren’t able to get any on the board in the second half.”

Ohio State lost to the Flashes last season in Kent, but the young Buckeyes came back this year with a lot of underclassman experience, much like the Flashes. That experience showed in the first game. The Buckeyes held on to the 2-0 lead for the final 53 minutes.

Despite the loss, the Flashes know that it is important to take the early non-conference games as learning experiences to grow as a team.

“Obviously a win is always what you’re after when you’re playing sport,” Bell said. “But mostly, at the moment, we’re looking to (play) a team game, know everyone’s strengths and weaknesses, working on the weaknesses and improving on the strengths as well.”

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].