Story courtesy of Kent State Athletic Communications
KENT, Ohio - On the heels of their second Mid-American Conference Tournament title in three years and riding an eight-game winning streak, the Kent State field hockey team travels to No. 9 American for an NCAA Play-in game on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. Making the program's seventh overall appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Golden Flashes are looking to advance to the Round of 16 for the first time since 2002.
Kent State (15-6) earned the MAC's automatic bid to the play-in game with a 3-2 win over Miami the championship game of the conference tournament on Saturday. In a back-and-forth battle of the league's regular season co-champions, the Golden Flashes finally prevailed when junior Debbie Bell (Hamilton, New Zealand/Waikato) fired the game winner home with just over two minutes remaining on the clock. Senior goalie Caroline Suitch (Mountain Top, Pa./Crestwood) then made two saves in the final 20 seconds to preserve the win.
The Golden Flashes have racked up 71 goals this season and rank top ten nationally with 3.38 goals scored and 9.21 penalty corners per game. While Bell leads the team with 26 goals, the scoring has been extremely well balanced with five different players scoring at least seven goals. In all, 11 different players have scored goals for Kent State this season. One of the most prolific scorers in the nation, Bell has seven game-winners this fall and has posted five consecutive multi-goal games.
With all the attention on the high powered offense, the suffocating Kent State defense often goes unnoticed. The Golden Flashes have locked up the opposition allowing an average of less than six shots on goal per game during the eight-game winning streak. Comparatively, Kent State has attempted an average of 13.4 shots on goal over the same period. Last weekend junior Amy Wimsatt (Louisville, Ky./Mercy Academy), senior Katie George (Springfield, Pa./Cardinal O'Hara), and senior Rachel Miller (Bathurst, Australia/MacKillop College) helped lead that defensive attack earning MAC All-Tournament team honors along with Bell, who scored four goals in the two games.
The tournament MVP and MAC Player of the Year, Miller is second on the team with 11 goals and first with 13 assists. The two-time All-American is one of only six players in the country to have recorded double digits in both goals scored and assists this season.
Already with two wins over top ten teams this season, the Golden Flashes will look to hand American (17-3) just its second loss in the last 18 games. The Eagles are currently riding a four-game winning streak after No. 2 Maryland stopped a 12-game streak on Oct. 20. The team is coming off a 6-2 win over Lafayette on Saturday that earned the program its eighth-straight Patriot League title.
Location has meant little to Kent State this season. The Golden Flashes are 10-2 away from home this year and have presently won seven straight games on the opposition's home turf. The seven true road wins by Kent State match the second most in school history. Only the 1978 team which went 8-1 on the road in its 17-6-7 season had more.
This will be just the second meeting between the two schools. American prevailed 3-0 in the only other encounter at Northwestern in 2007.