Going away party

Brock Harrington

MAC Player of the Year leads in finale

Field hockey coach Kerry DeVries talks with Libby Lame, sophomore mid-fielder, before practice.

Credit: Jason Hall

Kent State Field Hockey coach Kerry DeVries is leaving after this season, but make no mistake, the future of the field hockey team is bright. Of the 20 players on the team, there is only one senior, Carrie Rupp, and six juniors, including co-Mid American Conference player of the year, Berber Rischen. The rest of the women are underclassmen, including seven freshmen and six sophomores.

Though the team may lack a large senior class; DeVries said there’s definitely no shortage of talent.

“This is a very special freshman class, it really pains me that I won’t be here next season,” she said.

While the team is young, that’s not what DeVries is worried about. It’s communication that has her a bit concerned.

Two of the freshman players, Melanie Bierens de Haan and Britt van Pelt, are from The Netherlands, and the language barrier has slowed their progress.

“Once the girls (de Hann and van Pelt) grasp commands like ‘move left, move right,’ they’ll be ready to contribute to the team” DeVries said.

The Flashes have dealt with issues like these before, as Rischen and sophomore Charlotte Muller are both natives of Rotterdam in the Netherlands, so the communication breach can be mended. DeVries said both players will soon be impacting the team, as will many of the younger players.

DeVries said it wasn’t her alone who recruited such a talented class. She said assistant coach Helen Knull has been important in recruiting and helped her bring in freshman Natalie Barrett. Knull is a former standout player who joined the staff after she graduated from Kent State in 2003. Barrett attended the same high school as Knull in Scotland and looks to contribute immediately.

“Natalie is everything Helen was and more,” DeVries said. “She is tough, has a high pain tolerance and has a certain charm with the ball.”

A major challenge for all freshman athletes, Barrett said, is adjusting to new workout schedules and routines. Practices are executed with more intensity and more time is needed to prepare for upcoming games, such as Atlantic Coast Conference team Wake Forest and Big Ten foe Michigan State.

“The level of fitness and work ethic you need is greater than it was in high school because of the higher-quality field hockey,” Barrett said. “It’s more professional.”

The young recruits, along with a talented returning class, which includes nine letter winners, look to improve from last year, when the team had an 11-8 record and was the co-MAC champions. Last season came to an end when the Flashes lost to Louisville in the conference tournament final. Knull has compared this year’s team to the 2002 team that finished No. 6 in the country.

“I believe this team has more talent than the 2002 team, they just need to play as a team,” she said.

De Vries agreed this is special group and said she has many goals for the team, but keeps one major goal in mind: “I want the players to learn selflessness from the older players, I want them to learn to bleed blue and gold.”

While she’s unsure of who will replace her at the year’s end, she has the confidence that the Kent State tradition will live on.

“I promise that whoever takes over this team will carry on the standards I have set for this program,” she said.

Contact sports correspondent Brock Harrington at [email protected].