Another familiar slow start

Matt Gottfried

Most teams would be hard pressed to find anything positive to take from a 0-5 start.

But the Kent State field hockey upperclassmen are used to it.

After starting the previous two seasons with 2-5 records, the Flashes went on to claim the Mid-American Conference Championship, which is a trend the 2005 squad would like to continue.

“I always prefer to set a very challenging schedule outside of our conference,” said Kent State coach Kerry DeVries. “I feel our program can handle going up with some of the country’s best, I mean three of our four losses were by just one goal and two of those we outshot our opponents.”

DeVries said that she feels the Flashes can contend with anyone and the schedule reflects just that.

Four of the five teams the Flashes have played so far this season were ranked or had received votes in last year’s final National Field Hockey Coaches Association Top 20 poll.

To make the schedule even more difficult, the Flashes have played the last five games on the road and this weekend’s two matches are in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Even on the road, the competition won’t be much easier this weekend either.

The Flashes will match up against No. 1 Wake Forest on Friday and then No. 6 Michigan State on Saturday.

Despite the struggles, DeVries said she knows the season is far from over and that she can already see her team improving.

“The girls are making positive strides; they’re growing,” said DeVries. “They each just need to stay positive personally and believe in the staff and coaches.”

The team also has much to improve on before MAC play begins, DeVries said.

“They need to push themselves harder in practice the same way they do in games. That comes from within,” DeVries said. “Competitiveness comes from within. You have to want it, it can’t be forced on you.”

Despite compiling a 2-5 record through non-conference play last year, the Flashes boasted an 8-2 record in the MAC season, with both losses coming to Louisville in a pair of close battles. The previous year, the Flashes started the same and finished just the same with an 8-2 conference run to close out the season with a MAC title.

Yet even with the history on their side, the Flashes are running out of time. Only two more games remain before conference play opens up against Miami on Sept. 23.

“A strong percentage of the team understands the sense of urgency we are facing at this moment,” DeVries said. “Hopefully the others will realize this through those girls’ increased intensity and will follow suit.”

Contact field hockey reporter Matt Gottfried at [email protected].