Spring sports roundup & fall sports preview

Isabella Schreck, Sports Editor

Students left campus for a summer of sun and fun, but Kent State sports teams did not take a break.

Track and field make it to NCAAs

For the fourth time in her collegiate career, senior Gabby Bailey represented the women’s track and field team at the NCAA Championships on June 11. She placed 18th in the women’s discus throw at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships after qualifying for the tournament with a third-place victory at the NCAA East Preliminary Rounds.

The top 12 individuals and top 12 teams in the preliminary rounds qualified for the championships.

Thirteen Flashes from the women’s and men’s program competed in the preliminaries.

Fifth-year Grace Tennant and redshirt freshman Aliesha Shaw joined Bailey in the discus throw, placing 19th and 24th respectively. Their program earned second in the Mid- American Conference Outdoor Championships on May 14.

Tennant graduated last semester. Bailey and Shaw are returning next spring.

In men’s track and field, freshman Alexandre Malanda had the program’s best performance, taking 15th in the triple jump. This tied for his best finish of the season. The next- best standing came from fifth year Jake Wickey, who placed 25th in the hammer throw.

The Flashes had ended their regular season with a first place victory in the

Kent State junior Brian Phillips skids through the sand as he lands his long jump during the track meet on Feb. 25, 2022. (Matthew Brown)

MAC Outdoor Championships, their best finish since 2004.

Going into 2023, the women’s and men’s programs will be under new leadership. After 17 years in the role, Director of Track and Field/Cross Country Bill Lawson announced his retirement in May. Lawson was named MAC Coach of the year following the men’s championship victory.

Nathan Fanger, who has been associate head coach since 2015, now fills the position. Fanger graduated from Kent State in 2000 and was part of the program his whole college career.

Golf adds to its consecutive MAC wins

With a MAC Champion, Freshman of the Year and Golfer of the Year on its squad, the men’s golf team took its sixth straight MAC Championship on May 1.

But the victories did not stop there.

Graduate student Josh Gilkison, the reigning MAC Champion, led his team to 11th place at the NCAA Normal Regional on May 18, earning 34th overall with a 221. He is now going on to the pros.

His brother Jordan Gilkison, Freshman of the Year, and junior Cade Breitenstine placed in the top 52.

The defending Freshman of the Year made history on June 29 at the Ohio Open, becoming the first amateur golfer to win the championship in 44 years. He is the third competitor from Kent State to win the trophy.

Junior Chris Vandette, who placed fourth at the MAC Championships, won the Golfer of the Year honors.

Men’s head coach Jon Mill saw more of his own success in August, earning a place in the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame. The Canadian pro-golfer played for Kent as a student- athlete, graduating in 2002, and has qualified for three US Opens. This is his fourth year as head coach.

For the 23rd time in its 24-year history, and also with a MAC Golfer of the Year and Freshman of the Year in its lineup, the women’s golf program took home the MAC Championship title on April 24. Jennifer Gu, MAC Freshman of the Year, was the top-scoring freshman at the tournament with 227.

The Flashes placed 10th in the Franklin Regional on May 11, six places shy of the NCAA Championships, and finished the season ranked 46th nationally. Senior Emily Price, MAC Player of the Year, tied for 15th individually with 216.

The women’s team will be back on the fairway at the Dick McGuire Invitational in Albuquerque Sept. 12-13. The men’s program competes at the Fighting Irish Classic in South Bend Sept. 4-5.

Lacrosse posts best record, while baseball, softball close out the season

The women’s lacrosse team finished its season with six wins to 12 losses, the program’s best record so far in its four-year history. After clinching fourth place in the MAC to qualify for the final tournament, which consisted of the top four teams, the Flashes fell to Central Michigan 15-5.

Senior Abby Jones added another program-record to the season’s list as the first athlete to score over 100 career-goals.

Kent State senior Colin Matthews dives for 3rd base. (Matthew Brown)

Baseball and softball both fell short of any postseason action. Baseball finished fifth in the MAC and softball ninth. The top four teams qualified for the MAC tournament.

Senior Collin Matthews led his team in runs, scoring 56 total for the season. Junior Josh Johnson led in batting average .371. Fifth-year Madyson Cole had the best batting average for her team at .297, and senior Brooklyn Whitt scored the most runs with 27. Both women graduated last semester.

Men’s basketball goes down under

Much ahead of its first home game on Nov. 10 against Baldwin Wallace, the men’s basketball team traveled to Australia to compete in three exhibition games over an eight-day trip to Sydney and the Gold Coast.

Redshirt junior Sincere Carry reacts during the Kent State men’s basketball team’s win over Ohio in the semifinals of the MAC tournament in Cleveland, Ohio on Friday, March 11. (David Dermer )

The Flashes came back to the States with a perfect record. Redshirt senior guard Sincere Carry, named 2022 Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, led Kent State in points in two of the matches.

NCAA teams are allowed to compete internationally once every four years. In 2017, the Flashes went to Costa Rica, where they won two out of three games.

Now, as students readjust to campus and academic life, fall sports teams are back to wearing blue and gold on the field and in the gym.

Football ranks second in preseason poll

Kent State’s reigning MAC-East champs were ranked second in the annual preseason poll. Miami, which the football team defeated by one point in overtime to win the division, is placed first.

A week after the division championships, the program made its first appearance at the MAC Championship since 2012 on Dec. 4. That’s when the Flashes fell to Northern Illinois, which is picked first in the West.

KSU’s football program comes into this year with major roster and personnel changes.

Redshirt junior Collin Schlee will step up as starting quarterback after last year’s star Dustin Crum signed as an undrafted agent with the Kansas City Chiefs. Schlee played in 10 out of 14 games last season and threw for 238 yards.

Jeremiah Johnson is the team’s new defensive coordinator. He held the same position at Northern Iowa since 2013. Previous coordinator Tom Kaufman was fired 10 games into last year’s season.

For an in-depth rundown of the football program’s upcoming season, see the football preview.

All-American is new volleyball coach

Four-time All-American Haley Eckerman led the volleyball program into its first tournament Aug. 26 and 27.

The Flashes’ first home tournament is slated for Sept. 2 and 3.

Eckerman, who played outside hitter at the University of Texas, replaces Don Gromala, who went 126-161 in his 10 seasons as head coach. His team tied for seventh in the MAC last season, going 7-11. Then-senior Melissa Kolurbasi, one of three players who will be missing from last season, earned the most kills total at 290.

Before assistant coaching at Tarleton State, Eckerman coached at the high school level in her Iowa hometown and was assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Lamar University.

At UT Austin, this new head coach was Big 12 Freshman of the Year then player of the year her last three seasons. Eckerman then went on to play professionally overseas for four seasons.

Women’s soccer program turns 25

Since its inaugural season in 1997, the women’s soccer program has garnered one MAC Tournament title, in 2016, and three regular-season titles. To honor the silver jubilee, an reunion will be held along with the celebration of Title IX’s 50th anniversary, hosted by Kent State Athletics, which is set for Sept. 30-Oct. 2.

Last year, then-redshirt senior Cameron Shedenhelm kicked in 12 goals total, the best scoring performance of the season. Her team tied for second in the MAC and advanced all the way to the MAC championship game. But Bowling Green shut out KSU in that final match.

Redshirt senior Tianna Harris, who also made the USC All-Midwest First Team, won MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Eight new athletes are joining Harris this season.

Kent State will be back at Dix Stadium on Sept. 22, facing Ohio University, which the Flashes tied with in the MAC.

Field hockey and cross country prepare for season openers

The field hockey team, which tied with Miami for first in the MAC last season, ranked 23rd nationally last season. The Flashes made it all the way to the conference tournament semifinals last season.

This year, the team ranks second in the preseason coaches’ poll.

Fifth year goal keeper Azure Fernsler (82) blocks the ball from going into the net during the field hockey game on Oct. 15, 2021. Kent State beat Miami University 1-0 in regular time. (Savannah Monks)

Kent State started this year’s schedule Aug. 26 with a game at the University of Indiana. The Flashes have their first home game against Syracuse on Sept. 2, and MAC play starts on Sept. 18.

The reigning MAC champions are without goalkeeper Azure Fernsler, who had the eighth-highest save percentage nationally with .800. She was nominated for the 2022 NCAA Woman of the Year, as announced July 12.

Last season, men’s and women’s cross country finished in sixth and eighth place, respectively, at the MAC cross country championships. Six runners from each team reached the NCAA regionals.

Drew Johnson, who graduated in the spring, and then-freshman Baidy Ba led the men’s cross country team in both the conference championships and NCAA regionals. Current-graduate student Stephanie Ward, who remains on this season’s roster, put up the best times for the women’s side in both the championships and the regionals.

The Flashes’ first meet is the MAC Preview on Sept. 2 at Ohio University. They enter their first meet of the season with new director Nathan Fanger.

Isabella Schreck is sports editor. Contact her at [email protected]