Field hockey looks to avenge early exit

Chris Gates

Experienced team hopes to erase sting of semifinal loss by winning conference

The Kent State field hockey team is quickly becoming a front-runner in the Mid-American Conference and is building for the future to ensure things stay that way.

With seven new freshmen joining the squad and last season’s top four goal scorers returning, the Flashes have high hopes in 2008. A young team last year, Kent State went 12-9 and advanced to the MAC Tournament semifinals.

“We had a young team last year in that I had to have a lot of freshmen step up,” coach Kathleen Schanne said. “I think it’s just huge that we have a lot of experienced, seasoned veterans coming back for this year.”


* Aug. 30 St. Francis

Aug. 31 at Ohio State

* Sept. 5 Pacific (Golden Flash Invitational)

* Sept. 7 Lock Haven (Golden Flash Invitational)

Sept. 13 at Virginia

Sept. 14 at James Madison

Sept. 19 vs. Vermont (Albany, N.Y.)

Sept. 21 at Albany

* MAC Sept: 27 Central Michigan*

* MAC Sept. 28 Ohio

MAC Oct. 4 at Miami

MAC Oct. 5 at Ball State

MAC Oct. 10 at Ohio

* MAC Oct. 12 Missouri State

MAC Oct. 17 at Central Michigan

MAC Oct. 19 at Michigan

* MAC Oct. 25 Miami

* MAC Oct. 26 Ball State

MAC Nov. 1 at Missouri State

* Nov. 6-8 MAC Tournament (Kent)

* Home match

MAC Mid-American Conference match

Those veterans will have the chance to make up for the unfinished business from the MAC Tournament. The Flashes lost to Miami on a penalty shot with fewer than three minutes to play.

“I thought we could’ve gone farther than we did,” junior Laurie Wilkins said. “I think we know we can do it. We always play hard. We’re always competitive. We know in our heads that we can do it and I think that this year could be a good year.”

Wilkins is the second-leading goal scorer returning from 2007 and plans to take on her own leadership role even though she is not one of the two team captains. That honor went to seniors Natalie Barrett and Stephanie Bernthal.

That leadership will be tested in maintaining another young squad. Underclassmen more than double the amount of seniors and juniors on the team, and Schanne expects them each to play a role in the team’s success this season.

“The past two recruiting classes we’ve been really pleased with,” Schanne said. “This one we feel the same with. We’re going to have to wait and see how the team forms up. I have seven juniors and seniors together and then 15 sophomores and freshmen, so we’re sort of looking to all of them to come in and play a role.”

The Flashes have a tough task ahead of them considering the competition they will face in 2008. Four of the Flashes’ non-conference opponents finished last year ranked in the college field hockey coaches poll.

A three-game stretch in mid-September will be the toughest of the year. Kent State travels to No. 18 Virginia on Sept. 13, No. 7 James Madison on Sept. 14 and No. 19 Albany on Sept. 21.

Schanne noted that not only is the tough non-conference schedule a great preparation for the MAC season, but it is also a chance for the Flashes to possibly break in to the national rankings themselves.

“It’s really key to have plenty of nationally ranked opponents to help us with our national ranking,” Schanne said. “If we can knock off a few of those teams it really helps us with our (Ratings Percentage Index).”

In an effort to prepare and build chemistry, a large percentage of the team stayed in Kent during the summer. With practice set to begin Aug. 14, the team is prepared to adopt the correct frame of mind.

“In the MAC we kind of beat each other up,” Schanne said. “It’s very competitive. You can’t take anything lightly. We’re a process-oriented team and we try to take things one game at a time.”

Kent State will begin competition with an exhibition against Robert Morris Aug. 21. The regular season starts at home Aug. 30 against St. Francis.

The Flashes host the MAC Tournament from Nov. 6 to 8 and hope to find themselves in the finals on their home field. Last year, they surprised many in the conference, finishing second in the regular season and earning a first-round bye in the tournament.

“Last year, we had such an improved season,” Schanne said. “The way (the MAC semifinal) went down in the end is definitely on the minds of seniors and they want to avenge the MAC title. They want it, they want to be champions and I’m sure they thinking about it every while they’re training this summer.”

Contact sports reporter Chris Gates at [email protected].