MAC regular-season winners – again: Field hockey heads to conference quarterfinals, again

Isabella Schreck, Sports Editor

Within the field hockey program, finishing first in the Mid-American Conference regular season is a nonnegotiable.

Friday, the Flashes clinched that title for the 19th time in program history. They are “feeling good and confident.”

“We make it very clear on day one that it’s one of our goals,” fourth-year coach Kyle DeSandes-Moyer said. “It’s part of the culture that has been built by all of the teams and alums and former coaches before us.”

“We’re extremely proud of them, and we’re excited for the next part of our season.”

At Murphy-Mellis field, her team beat Bellarmine (4-15 overall, 2-5 MAC) 4-1 in their last home game of the season. The team lost to Michigan State 3-1 Sunday.

Kent State tied with Miami for first place in the MAC regular season at 6-1. KSU is 8-9 overall; The RedHawks are 11-7.

“It’s a huge body of work as opposed to the tournament,” she said. “The regular season is sustaining that performance over seven weeks, which is challenging. This year, a lot of teams were good in our conference.”

The Flashes compete in the MAC tournament quarterfinals at Miami. The top four teams qualify.

They play Appalachian State, which is third in the conference, at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 4. Ball State, fourth in the MAC, and Miami play at 11:30 a.m. The winners compete in the championship at 2 p.m. Nov. 5.

Miami, the reigning tournament champions, has gone 7-1 at home this season. The Flashes’ only loss is to the RedHawks, and that Oct. 14 game is the only time KSU has not outshot a MAC opponent all season.

Kent State has made the tournament every year since 1988. There was no finals for the 2020-21 season. The team has won 12 conference tournament titles – the most in MAC field hockey history. Miami is second with six.

This is the second consecutive regular-season win under DeSandes-Moyer. KSU tied with Miami last season at 6-1. The team fell to Longwood in the quarterfinals.

“That precedent and standard had been set many years before I was fortunate enough to coach here,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “It makes it really easy to continue on with that standard and make it something we strive towards and talk about all the time.”

The coach credited her seniors, Sydney Washburn, Caitlin Holland, Maria Cambra Soler and Larissa Balachick, saying “they provide a lot of leadership for us on and off the field.”

This season, the Flashes have scored 26 goals in MAC play and allowed 13.

“They’re done a really great job of generating attacks and capitalizing early in the game,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “Most of our game, they were extremely diligent on defense. They were really focused, and they talked a lot about what they wanted to accomplish.”

All year long, DeSandes-Moyer said her athletes focus on the program’s standards and values in games and in practice to earn success.

“It’s being the most competitive and respected team in our conference and striving to make our friends, family, alums and university proud,” she said. “We talk about family, being relentless, everyday effort, selflessness, positivity and commitment.”

Soler scored the first goal of Friday’s game eight minutes into the first period. A Bellarmine forward scored at 9:36.

Soler responded again less than a minute later, making the score 2-1 by the end of the period. Bellarmine did not score the rest of the game.

Junior midfielder Jenna McCrudden scored in the third period and freshman Patricia Strunk scored in the fourth. The Flashes won 4-1.

The Flashes outshot the Knights 15 to five, with eight on goal.

“Friday was filled with a lot of emotions – nerves, excitement, anticipation,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “They did a great job. They performed under a lot of pressure.”

Saturday, Kent State totaled 16 shots to Michigan State’s 14 and seven penalty corners to the Spartan’s five.

But Strunk was the only KSU player to score a goal, which came with less than two minutes to go in the first period. Michigan State (9-9 overall, 1-7 Big 10) scored in the first, second and fourth periods to win the game 3-1.

“It’s unfortunate, we outshot and out-cornered our opponent, but the other team just made less mistakes than we did,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “It’s a bummer we wouldn’t get the win against an in-region opponent, but it was a good opportunity for us to get out there and play a little extra time before the tournament.”

Goalkeeper Cecile van Eijck made saves on the weekend and has totaled 101 saves and allowed 41 goals this season. This is her first year starting.

Strunk is first in goals with seven.

Kent State defeated Appalachian State 2-1 in its MAC opener Sept. 18. The Flashes had totaled 14 shots to App State’s 4. They had eight penalty corners to three.

KSU had made at least 15 shots and three goals in all but one conference game moving forward.

“We’re a completely different team than we were back then,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “We have more confidence. We have more depth.”

The Mountaineers, who are 13-5 overall, have made twenty goals in MAC play and allowed nine. Their other loss is to Miami Sept. 30 – the team is on a nine-game winning streak.

They are assistant coached by Azure Fernsler, who played for Kent State from 2017-2021 and earned MAC player of the year last season.

Graduate student midfielder Friederike Stegen, who was named to the All-MAC first team last season, leads App State with 12 goals. Senior goalkeeper Addie Clark has made 75 saves and allowed 20 goals on the season.

With five days until her team’s tournament appearance Nov. 4, DeSandes-Moyer said her team will stick to its routine.

“Even though it is a more pressure-filled time of the year, you’ve got to keep doing what you’re doing, like training, film and all those little things we’ve been asking them to do all year,” she said. “You have to keep it as consistent as you can.”

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