Defense is top priority for field hockey team

Tyler McIntosh

Playing the back position in field hockey is like playing the bass in a rock band. They do a lot of the hard work, but the lead singers, or forwards in this case, get most of the recognition.

However, the notoriety does not matter to sophomore back Stephanie Bernthal. Bernthal pointed out just how crucial of a role the backs play for Kent State’s field hockey team.

“Our job is to protect the middle,” Bernthal said. “We have to keep the offense out of the circle and off to the side as much as possible. Being disciplined is the most important thing for a back. We have to be detail oriented so we don’t commit unnecessary fouls.”

Junior back Charlotte Muller added that communication is important for the backs to be successful.

“The minute we start talking, the defense picks up,” Muller said. “It starts with the goalie. As long as they keep communicating to the backfield it’s fine.”

Bernthal said that the defense’s best performance came in a win over Michigan State Sept. 17. Despite giving up nine penalty corners, Kent State only allowed two goals and pulled off a one-goal victory.

“We played with each other really well,” Bernthal said. “I just felt like I connected with everyone on my side. We made a lot of good things happen. We did not allow a goal in the second half.”

Bernthal said that the Flashes’ defensive game plan starts with the team looking at the opposition’s best players and their tendencies. Next, they come up with a plan to shut those individuals down. The plan is then worked on in practice and finalized the day before the game.

Bernthal, who has two assists this season and one career goal, said that she has no interest in the offensive aspect of the game. She said that she has no desire to play a more offensive-oriented position such as forward.

“It’s fun sometimes in practice to mess around as a forward and score goals, but I’d rather play defense in a game,” Bernthal said. “There’s a different mindset involved. As a back, you have to focus on shutting a player down. Forwards have to make something happen. There is more attacking and aggressiveness involved. I’m not that aggressive.”

Kent State (3-7, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) will face Missouri State (4-3, 0-0 MAC) and St. Louis (4-4, 0-0 Atlantic 10) this weekend. Kent State has not won a game on the road this year.

Missouri State is led by forward Stephani Wehrman, who has four goals on the season. Last year, the Flashes lost 1-0 in overtime at Missouri State. Overall, Kent State is 11-2-1 against Missouri State.

St. Louis is led by goalie Amy Wasserman, whose 1.43 goals-against average is No. 13 in the nation. Kent State is 7-3 all-time against St. Louis, but the teams have not played since 2000.

Kent State will play at 3 p.m at Missouri State today and at 12 p.m at St. Louis tomorrow.

Contact field hockey reporter Tyler McIntosh at [email protected].