Cecile van Eijck keeps making saves: Tough field hockey weekend shows defensive strengths


Matthew Brown

The Kent State field hockey team lines up in anticipation of a penalty corner.

Isabella Schreck, Sports Editor

In her first starting season as goalkeeper, Cecile van Eijck saved 10 shots against the fourth-ranked field hockey team in the country Sunday.

The sophomore even defended against two All-American players.

“I’m really, really happy,” van Eijck said. “Our team was so positive and the vibes were so good. It really helps me because I think, ‘We got this, we’re in it. We’re not giving up.’ That mentality is what gets me through games.”

No. 4 Penn State’s junior midfielder Mackenzie Allessie and sophomore forward Sophia Gladieux were named as All-Americans in December 2021.

The Kent State field hockey team fell to Miami (4-1 MAC, 8-6 overall) 2-1 Friday and the Nittany Lions 3-0 Sunday. The Flashes are now 6-7 on the season and tied for first in the Mid-American Conference at 4-1.

Penn State is 13-2 overall and 5-1 in the Big 10.

“We knew it was going to be a tough weekend,” coach Kyle DeSandes-Moyer said. “It’s always a tough one with Miami. We’re big rivals, and there was a lot on the line for both teams. And then with playing Penn State – they’re having a great season, and they’re a very experienced team.”

Van Eijck totaled 17 saves on the weekend.

Sunday, the Flashes totaled five shots on goal to their opponent’s 13.

“It was just trying to save as much as possible and not letting myself get down when they score because they were bound to score,” van Eijck said. “Goals go in, and you have to be like ‘Okay, fine, they’re really good. It happens.’”

Her coach said she is “super unique.”

“She has her own style, and she just has incredible instincts,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “Her reaction time is wildly fast, and her aggressiveness is something I really like.”

Gladieux scored a goal in the first period and a goal in the third. Graduate student midfielder Anna Simon scored in the second period. All goals were assisted by a midfielder.

The Flashes went into Thursday’s game undefeated in the MAC after beating Central Michigan, Ohio, Ball State and Appalachian State. KSU is still tied for the best in the MAC with Miami.

Kent State senior Sydney Washburn cuts off her Penn State opponent during the game on Oct. 16, 2022. (Matthew Brown)

Up until the team’s battle against the RedHawks, Kent State had outshot each of its MAC opponents. This time, Miami put up 17 shots to KSU’s 11.

“Their bread and butter is to have a lot of attack,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “It was a pretty evenly contested game.”

Miami led 1-0 at the end of the first period.

Three minutes into the second period, freshman Patricia Strunk scored the Flashes’ only goal of the game off a penalty flick following a penalty corner. This was her fifth goal of the season.

With less than four minutes left in the game, a Miami midfielder’s goal brought the final score to 2-1.

Van Eijck made seven saves on the night.

Last season, she had only played in three games.

“I was really nervous when I started because I had no clue what to expect,” she said. “I watched from the sidelines last year and had a big icon to look up to in Azure. It was nice to watch her and follow in her footsteps.

Azure Fernsler was a goalie with Kent State for five seasons before graduating from the program, and was named MAC defensive player of the year. She now assistant coaches at Appalachian State.

Last year, van Eijck totaled nine saves. Thirteen games into this season, she has made 82.

The sophomore goalkeeper ranks second in the MAC in total saves and third in the conference in saves per game, averaging 6.31.

“I had to keep believing that it was all going to be right,” van Eijck said. “I obviously want to win, but I also know we can’t always win. So as long as I’m staying in it and am mentally okay, that’s how I perform in games that way.”

Coming from the Netherlands, the new starter said she is getting much more comfortable playing in America.

“Being a goalie here and coaching my team in a different language was a bit of a challenge,” van Eijck said. “We’re getting to know each other better, and we can really play off of each other now.”

DeSandes-Moyer said her goalie is a leader on and off the field.

“She really does a good job of connecting with all the players,” she said. “She’s very intuitive and cares about her teammates.”

The Flashes play their second-to-last conference game at Longwood at 4 p.m. Friday. They play at Virginia (9-4 overall) at noon Sunday. Longwood is seventh in the MAC at 1-4 and is 3-11 on the season.

“Our mentality and mindset was really great,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “They were willing to compete for 60 minutes, and they made adjustments on the fly. Hopefully we’ll be able to be more consistent in that sense.”

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