'No victory, no Ball State' was all that needed to be said.
"We knew we had to beat Ohio to play Ball State, and that's how we kept our focus," said sophomore tri-captain Elsbeth Versterre. "It was very simple."
Disposing of the Bobcats wasn't terribly simple, but the Golden Flashes did manage to take care of business collectively as four different players scored in a 4-2 triumph at Dix Stadium.
The win catapults Kent (17-4) into the championship match today at 1 p.m. against the five-time defending conference champion Cardinals (14-4), who defeated Central Michigan (9-12) 5-0 in Friday's other semifinal.
When Versterre scored on a penalty corner less than two minutes into the contest, the Flashes seemed ready to put Ohio (10-10) away in a hurry. But the Bobcats continued to scratch and claw, and eventually tied the match when Marianne Beshara flipped a shot past Kent goalkeeper Jodi Lume at the 9:30 mark of the first half.
Kent struck back when senior Beth DeCapua delivered a nifty pass to junior Maggie Downey, who blasted a shot past Ohio's Michelle Hinman to put her team ahead to stay. Downey finished with a goal and an assist, giving her 100 career points.
Freshman Leontien Plugge then added perhaps the most pivotal goal of the match when she scored literally as the first-half clock expired.
"I was almost at the 50-yard line, and I remember looking up and seeing 40 seconds on the clock," said Plugge. "Then I got the ball back in the corner, and I knew if I was very quick maybe I could make a shot in time."
And she did just that, just in time.
"We needed that burst," said Versterre. "We had put a lot of pressure on them, but we needed a score. It gets frustrating when you pressure a team but don't score."
Still, the Bobcats wouldn't quit.
Ali Johnstone ripped a shot from close range past a helpless Lume to cut the Flashes' lead to 3-2 with 23:55 remaining, and minutes later the Bobcats were awarded a penalty stroke when a Kent player purposely kicked the ball away inside her own arc.
But Ohio senior Sandy Wood mishit the free shot, as Lume made an easy save.
Kent was able to finally clear the ball out of its own end shortly thereafter, setting up a 3-on-2 break that ended in an insurance goal. Freshman Wieteke van de Kamp ripped a shot past an out-of-position Hinman to give the Flashes a 4-2 lead they weren't about to relinquish.
Afterward attention immediately turned to the Cardinals, who have beaten second-year coach Kerry De Vries' Kent squad five times in the last two years. Ball State defeated the Flashes 5-1 in the championship match a year ago.
"This is what we've waited all year for," said Versterre. "We don't expect any surprises. Ball State has a very good team, and we have something to prove."
MAC Field Hockey Tournament Semifinals
Kent State 4, Ohio 2
(At Dix Stadium)
OHIO 1 1 _ 2
KENT STATE 3 1 _ 4
First half _ 1. (K) Elsbeth Versterre (Beth DeCapua, Maggie Downey), 33:12; 2. (O) Marianne Beshara (unassisted), 9:30; 3. (K) Downey (DeCapua), 3:30; 4. (K) Leontien Plugge (unassisted), :00.
Second half _ 1. (O) Ali Johnstone (unassisted), 23:55; 2. (K) Wieteke van de Kamp (unassisted), 16:48.
Shots on goal _ Kent State, 21-14.
Penalty corners _ Kent State, 12-7.
Goalkeepers/Saves _ (O) Michelle Hinman/7; (K) Jodi Lume/7.