Kent State Claims Third Straight MAC Title With 4-2 Win At Missouri State
Golden Flashes earn MAC Tournament's No. 1 seed and will face either CMU or MSU on Friday
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The Kent State field hockey team won its third straight Mid-American Conference Regular season title after junior Debbie Bell (Hamilton, New Zealand / Waikato) scored twice to lead the Golden Flashes to a 4-2 win at Missouri State. Kent State finished the regular season with a 13-6 overall record and with an 8-2 league mark tied for first in the MAC with Miami (13-6; 8-2).
The Golden Flashes split the two meetings with the RedHawks this season, but won the tiebreaker due to goal differential in league play and will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament hosted by Central Michigan on Nov. 4-6. As the No. 1 seed Kent State has an automatic bye into the semifinals and face the winner of the Central Michigan-Missouri State game on Friday.
"This is a great accomplishment for our program," said Kent State Head Coach Kathleen (Schanne) Wiler. "We knew going into today's game all we had to do was win and we would have a share of the MAC title. I'm proud of the way our team stayed focused and took care of business. Now we can turn our attention to winning the MAC Tournament and advancing to the NCAAs."
Another sound defensive effort and a balanced scoring attack led the Golden Flashes to their sixth straight win this afternoon. Kent State dominated the statistical categories holding a 25-9 advantage in shots taken and a 17-5 advantage in penalty corners.
The Golden Flashes were aggressive with their attack from the outset, but despite a 14-2 edge in shots taken and a 12-1 edge in penalty corners they were only able to muster a single goal in the first half. Junior Carla Johl (Hamilton, New Zealand / Waikato) accounted for that lone first half score in the 27th minute when she forced a turnover then scored her seventh goal of the season with a shot into the right corner from the center of the circle.
Missouri State (5-14; 2-8) pulled even in the 39th minute when Kristi O'Conner scored from two yards out. The momentum was short lived by the Bears however as Bell, the MAC's leading scorer, came alive scoring twice in the next two minutes to put Kent State on top to stay. Bell, who now has 22 goals this season, scored her first goal off a long assist from freshman Rebecca Lee (Bathurst, Australia/The Scots School). Her next score which staked the Golden Flashes to a 3-1 lead came out of a penalty corner opportunity and a pass from redshirt junior captain Stephanie Arbeleaz (San Diego, Calif./Mira Mesa).
A rebound goal by the Bear's Reiann Stoute in the 46th minute cut the deficit to just one (3-2), but the Kent State defense made another strong stand as the Golden Flashes held Missouri State without a shot for the final 24 minutes of the game.
Senior captain and two-time All-American Rachel Miller (Bathurst, Australia/MacKillop College) put the finishing touches on the victory with her 10th goal of the season. Miller's goal came in the 66th minute off another assist from Arbelaez on a penalty corner. Kent State goalie Caroline Suitch (Mountain Top, Pa./Crestwood) made six saves in the game and moved into a tie for third place with Dawn Malone (1983-86) on the school's career wins list with her 41st victory in goal.
The regular season title marks the 11th in program history for Kent State. The three-peat is a first for the Golden Flashes since a string of three straight from 2003-2005.