Junior midfielder Berber Rischen attempts to steal the ball from a Miami player at the game Friday. The Flashes beat the RedHawks 2-0.
Credit: Steve Schirra
Two weeks ago when the Kent State field hockey team was winless at 0-11 and struggling to find an identity, there would have been very few people who believed they could crawl out of such a hole.
Kent State coach Kerry DeVries and the Flashes weren’t included in that group.
After ending the losing streak with key wins last weekend against two of the top teams in the Mid-American Conference, the Flashes (4-12, 4-2 MAC) struck again by beating conference foes Miami of Ohio and Ball State.
Kent State avenged an earlier 4-0 loss to the RedHawks when they shutout Miami 2-0 on Friday and then took Ball State to overtime, winning 3-2 yesterday.
The team as well as DeVries said last weekend’s wins helped the Flashes’ confidence.
“The win over (Ohio) was big,” said junior left forward Elizabeth Lahey, referring to last week’s, 3-2, overtime win over the previous MAC leaders. “We had lost a lot of close games, and that was the first time we had been able to get the result we wanted.”
Before that game, the Flashes were 0-6 in one-goal contests. While the Flashes lost 4-2 to Ohio State in their next game, the feeling of a win was still fresh in their minds.
“We got a taste of what winning was like,” sophomore Caitlin MacKenzie said. “And I think that made us hungrier for more wins.”
The turnaround from being 0-11 to one of the hottest teams in the MAC was fueled by one thing: staying positive.
Easier said than done when your team hadn’t won a game for the first month of the season.
Yet, DeVries said because the Flashes remained positive through the rough start, they’re now coming together as a team.
“We have a very positive team and even though we hadn’t won, we found things that were going very well in those games,” she said. “By staying positive it has helped this team believe in each other.”
DeVries added that she never lost confidence in her team and continued to believe the Flashes could be successful. The players said her continued belief was important.
“Our coaches kept believing in us,” MacKenzie said. “With them being positive, it helped us stay positive.”
MacKenzie said the players fed off the coaches’ belief and carried that positive attitude into their games. Teammate Liz Fettrow, a junior forward, said the Flashes are beginning to reap the benefits from the assured mindset.
“I think it’s in the process of paying off,” Fettrow said of staying positive. “If we didn’t have that (losing) experience, we might not be where we are. When a game’s over and you didn’t get the result you wanted, you’re disappointed that you didn’t win, but it’s not the end of the world. And then you start focusing on what you did well.”
Fettrow added that is was difficult to adjust during the losing because the Flashes had a number of new and inexperienced players still learning how to play together.
“There’s a definite difference from what our teamwork was before to now. It’s like an entirely different team. The more you work, the easier it is to adjust.”
Work isn’t just a four-letter word for the Flashes either. Lahey said the team has “extremely intense” practices that’s helped the team chemistry. A few changes in the Flashes’ scheme and work ethic s helped in the team’s resurgence. DeVries said she wanted Kent State to become more aggressive on offense, and that she also made a few changes in the lineup.
“As soon as she changed things we won four out of five, ” Lahey said. “It’s more of an attacking system now. People know each others strengths and can base their movements on that.”
Fettrow said the change came at the right time.
“I think change is always a good thing,” she said, “especially when something’s not working. We were receptive to (the changes in the lineup.) Everyone is willing to make a sacrifice for the better of the team.”
While the Flashes are beginning to hit stride as the season nears its end, DeVries made sure to note there’s plenty of work ahead.
“It’s critical that we play consistent,” she said. “I don’t think, right now, we’re playing very consistently. I don’t think it’s going to take an A-plus performance to win the MAC. It’s going to take consistent play.”
Her players agreed they’re still not where they’d like to be.
“We’re getting stronger each game,” MacKenzie said. “And we’re working toward our peak.”
With the worst behind them, the Flashes know what they have to do regain their MAC crown.
“The problems we had, we fixed,” Lahey said. “And now we’re not making those same mistakes.”
The Flashes will get a chance to continue their conference surge at 11 a.m. on Saturday at home against Missouri State.
Contact sports editor Joey Simon at [email protected]