Field hockey puts on its defensive best, outshooting MAC-opening competitor

James Goddard, Reporter

In non-conference play, Kent State’s field hockey team allowed teams an average of 19 shots per game.

In Sunday’s Mid-American Conference opener, the Flashes held Appalachian State to just four shots on the way to a 2-1 victory.

“I was super proud,” coach Kyle DeSandes-Moyer said. “It was a sense of relief because we had been pushing for so long.”

Kent State had been outshot in all but one game in compiling a 2-4 non-conference record. Against Appalachian State, KSU had 14 shots to the Mountaineers’ four.

“Our biggest focus this week has been on being intentionally defensive and to have a defensive mindset throughout the game,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “We wanted to pressure the other team and tackle outside our circle.”

“Our defense was so focused and intentional in their play. That allowed us to continue the momentum forward and attack.”

The Flashes’ 14 shots were the second highest of the season to their 17 in their 3-2 win over Bucknell, and their 10-shot margin was their highest of the year.

Just under seven minutes into the fourth period, Kent State sophomore Agustina Florio rocketed the ball to the right of the Appalachian State goalie and into the bottom left corner of the net. The shot came off of a penalty-corner pass from sophomore Larissa Balachick, who had taken the insertion pass from freshman Maia Sarrabayrouse.

Four minutes later, senior Maria Cambra-Soler passed to junior Jenna McCrudden who swiveled and launched the ball over the goalie’s head into the back left of the net.

With three minutes left, Appalachian State scored its only goal but didn’t threaten in the last minutes.

“Appalachian State is a very strong team,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “They were super successful coming into the game, so it was a confidence booster to see us shut that down and come out on top.”

Appalachian State’s record is now 3-3, and Kent State’s is 3-4.

“I think this game gave us a lot of confidence going forward,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “We learned our defense can be very strong. This game is going to improve their confidence as we get ready for the next game.”

The Flashes still need to work on their penalty corners, she said. (They’re only two-of-18 in their last two games.)

“It comes down to devoting more time on it in practices and being super focused,” DeSandes-Moyer said.

The Flashes play Ball State (4-2) at 2 p.m. Friday at Murphy-Mellis Field.

Former star Azure Fernsler comes back – but on the opposing side

Azure Fernsler, Kent State’s star goalkeeper last season, returned to Murphy-Mellis field Sunday — as an assistant coach for Appalachian State.

“It’s a new perspective,” Fernsler said. “I’m thankful for how Kent developed me so that I am able to be in this position.”

Fernsler played for Kent State field hockey from 2018-2021. Last season, she won MAC defensive player of the year and the Janet Bachna award for her leadership and athletic and academic performance. Kent State nominated her for NCAA woman of the year.

Sunday, she was recognized for winning the Bachna award. She called earning the award “ a huge honor.”

Fernsler said she never thought she would see this kind of success. In 2017, she had her second knee surgery, an operation she said “you don’t come back from.”

“It’s literally a miracle that I was able to continue playing,” Fernsler said. “I definitely want to thank God. My faith has played a huge role in my journey.”

Fernsler also thanked her teammates.

“They were with me through everything,” Fernsler said.

The former goalie is using the lessons and skills she learned from her time playing at KSU in her new coaching role.

“Anywhere you go, you learn from your past experiences,” Fernsler said. “I learned a lot of leadership, and it was a confidence builder. From experiencing five years of some injury and then also playing, I think bringing it to App [State] is cool. It’s like a fresh start.”

James Goddard is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected]