Positives and a negative: Field hockey falls in tournament semifinals but rakes in MAC awards

Isabella Schreck, Sports Editor

Before their team’s 1-0 loss to Appalachian State in the Mid-American Conference tournament semifinals Friday, two leaders earned top conference recognition.

Forward Patricia Strunk earned freshman of the year and back Maria Cambra-Soler earned defensive player of the year. KSU finished the season at 8-10 overall and 6-1 in the MAC.

Strunk led her team with 17 points this season and seven goals. She started in all the Flashes’ 18 games and has scored at least once in five of her team’s seven regular-season MAC battles.

“It’s been incredible,” coach Kyle DeSandes-Moyer said. “We knew she was a very talented player. It’s always an interesting transition for someone coming to a totally new team, and she was able to jump right in the striker line, get to work and understand what we needed. She was able to be extremely successful on the ball.”

Her best performance came against Ohio Sept. 30, where she scored two goals and made six shots. She ranked ninth in the MAC in goals and sixth in shots on goal with 29.

Soler is second on KSU in goals with six and is third in the conference in shots with 51. She is second on her team in defensive saves with two.

“She just really executed well on our penalty corners this past fall and was able to get some really great points, goals and assists,” DeSandes-Moyer said. “She was able to execute and play a big role in our penalty corners, which impacted us a lot all year. She was able to perform in some pressure situations.”

The senior started in all 18 games last season. She did not play in her team’s last two games this year.

Both players were named to the all-MAC first team.

The Mountaineers, who were third in the conference, outshot Kent State 6-3 Friday in the MAC semifinals at Miami. They had four shots on goal to the Flashes’ three.

KSU goalkeeper Cecile van Eijck made three saves. She totaled 12 on the season.

“We struggled with the amount of pressure that App State put on us, and we struggled to generate a lot of attack,” the fourth-year head coach said. “It was definitely a really great battle between two good teams. There was a lot of back and forth in the midfield.”

App State, 5-2 in the MAC and 14-5 overall, advances to the finals against Miami at 2 p.m. Friday. The RedHawks, who shared the Mid-American Conference regular-season title with KSU, are 12-7 overall 6-1 in the conference.

The team defeated the Mountaineers 2-1 in its first conference game of the season. The Flashes had outshot App State 14-4.

By the end of the season, Kent State had earned the MAC regular-season title and held its conference opponents to only nine goals in the regular season.

DeSandes-Moyer said she has seen her team grow since its first App State game.

“The biggest thing was experience in how to deal with different challenges and adjusting and being resilient,” she said. “That was something that we really saw them get better at as the season went on.”

Kent State played ten non-conference teams and opened the season against six. The Flashes played six programs ranking in the top 23 nationally.

DeSandes-Moyer said her team had the 15th hardest non-conference schedule in the country.

“We are always tasked with an extremely tough non-conference schedule,” she said. “So having young players be thrown into that and their ability to deal with that and compete with teams at that level is where we saw a lot of growth from them.”

The Flashes went 2-8 in non-conference play and allowed 34 goals.

Kent State replaced 11 players from last year – there are nine freshmen on the roster. Backs Maia Sarrabayrouse and Iris Bekker were selected for the all-MAC second team.

Sarrabayrouse tied for third on her squad in assists with five and is fifth in goals with three. Bekker tied for fourth with four assists and made one defensive save.

League coaches picked the two women and Strunk for the all-MAC freshman team.

Forward Sydney Washburn, midfielder Larissa Balachick, midfielder Caitlin Holland and Soler are the team’s seniors. DeSandes-Moyer said she is “very grateful” for their leadership.

“There were definitely a lot of question marks going into the season given that we had lost so many senior players,” she said. “Our senior class really did an excellent job stepping up. They were tasked with leading an extremely young team.”

Washburn tied for sixth in goals with two and is sixth in shots on goal with 12. Balachick earned one goal and had one defensive save, and Holland made four shots.

DeSandes-Moyer “can’t wait” for next season.

“The future is really bright,” she said. “We have a lot of really great young players.”

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