2009 Field Hockey Season Review



For head coach Dawn Callahan and the Field Hockey Bears, 2009 was a season of close calls and near misses. The team's final record of 4-16, 1-9 in the Mid-American Conference, did not tell the full story of a team on the cusp of a turnaround. The Bears played well against tough competition, but could not get over the hump in numerous close games. Of the 16 losses, 10 were decided by two goals or less, with the Bears holding second-half leads or tied in six of the defeats. Two losses were decided in overtime. One in double-overtime. It was that sort of season for the Bears.

But there were several promising developments throughout the year. The 2009 season saw some outstanding individual achievements, progress from upperclassmen and potential from the newcomers; as well as impressive performances in the field hockey battle for Missouri and against the eventual MAC champion and NCAA Tournament participant.

Opening Out West
The Bears began the year with a West Coast swing and a trio of stinging defeats. The Aug. 28 season-opener at Pacific provided a glimpse into what the rest of the season would hold. Alyssa Hile scored the Bears' first goal of the season, and of the game, giving MSU a 1-0 halftime lead. Freshman keeper Steph Anderson kept the Tigers scoreless for the game's first 38 minutes, but there would be no shutout in her collegiate debut. Pacific scored twice in the second half to notch a 2-1 win.

Two days later brought eventual NorPac champion and NCAA participant Stanford. The first career goal from freshman Kristi O'Connor off a rebounded save tied the score at 1-1, but the offensive onslaught from the Cardinal was too much, as the Bears fell 3-1 despite 14 saves from Anderson.

The final game of the road trip was a back-and-forth battle against UC Davis, with the score tied at one at halftime, thanks to O'Connor's second goal in as many days, and at two at the end of regulation. An Aggie goal six minutes into overtime sent the Bears back to Springfield with a 3-2 defeat, and a 0-3 record.

Wins Wrap Up Non-Conference
Home cooking did the Bears well. Labor day weekend games against Robert Morris and in-state rival Saint Louis produced two MSU wins by a combined score of 14-1. The first was a 7-1 trouncing of the Colonials. After a scoreless first 21 minutes of action, Alyssa Hile gave the Bears a lead on an unassisted goal, and they never looked back. The Bears scored five goals in the next 20 minutes of action, courtesy of Kristen Pettey, Kristi O'Connor, Melissa Lantz and two goals from Hile. After a Robert Morris goal made it 5-1 with 14 minutes to play, the Bears added on with goals from Megan Shamleffer and Sarah Cusick. There was plenty of scoring to go around, with seven Bears registering a point that day. Hile led the way with two goals, two assists and six points.

MSU stayed hot against in-state rival Saint Louis. Lantz scored only 71 seconds into the match, and O'Connor followed soon after with her fourth goal in as many games. Those goals were followed by two from Chase, two from Hile and one from Pettey. Both O'Connor and Pettey had multiple assists. Equally as impressive was the Bears' stifling defense. Anderson earned her first shutout of the season, saving all five Billiken shots on goal. The 7-1 win brought the Bears' season record to 2-3, and bumped their lead in the all-time I-44 series to 52-27-2.

For her efforts over the holiday weekend, Hile was named MAC Offensive Player of the Week. The Wildwood, Mo., finished the weekend sweep with a combined four goals, three assists and 11 points. She constantly kept the pressure on the defense by registering 12 shots, 11 of which were on goal. The strong showing made Hile the MAC's early leader in points and goals.

A third-straight home game against Louisville would prove much more of a challenge, but that was to be expected when the Cardinals brought their No. 16 national ranking to Springfield. Anderson saved 15 shots and held the Cardinals to only three goals, but the Bear offense could not get started, managing only one shot on goal. Louisville went back to Big East play with a 3-0 win.

A mid-September trip up north to Evanston, Ill., and the Northwestern campus did the Bears no favors. Facing a nationally-ranked team, No. 18 Northwestern, for a second-straight game, the Bears were overmatched. The Wildcats scored two goals in the game's first five minutes and four in the first 30. MSU could never find its footing and fell 8-0.

A day later the Bears faced St. Joseph's for the first time in school history, and the match-up debut proved to be a classic. The two teams exchanged goals in the first half and went to intermission tied at three. Hile and Lantz scored early in the period, and Pettey scored late.  

It looked as though the Bears had taken control of this seesaw affair early in the second half when Pettey came back for more, scoring her second goal in the 41st minute to put MSU ahead 4-3. But the Bears could not hold the late lead, allowing St. Joseph's to score with 11 minutes to play to force overtime. One OT was not enough as the teams went scoreless in the additional fifteen minutes, forcing double overtime.  St. Joseph's then put an end to the day with a rebound put-back for a goal and the 5-4 win.  

Opening Conference Play in Style

The Bears opened their conference season against perennial power Kent State and took the Golden Flashes to the wire. After trailing 2-0 at the half, MSU made it interesting thanks to the work of senior Melissa Lantz.  She scored three second-half goals, eventually cutting the Kent State lead to 4-3 with just over five minutes to play. Kent State cushioned its lead with two goals in the final three minutes, and the Bears fell 6-3. There was no answer for KSU's Debbie Bell, who would battle with Lantz all season for the MAC scoring title, as she matched Lantz's hat trick with one of her own.

The team's second MAC contest of the season two days later closed out September play and brought about the season's best game. Eventual MAC regular-season and tournament champion Ohio University came to Plaster Field intent on improving their 15-8-1 all-time record against the Bears. MSU had not defeated the Bobcats since joining the MAC. That would all change this picture perfect, autumn day in late September.

It did not look that way for the game's first 60 minutes and 35 seconds. Until that point Ohio had dominated and established a 2-0 lead, but Melissa Lantz had yet to take over. At 60 minutes and 36 seconds, she did. Lantz fired a shot to the right post and past the Bobcat keeper to cut the lead in half. Less than four minutes later, she was at it again. Lantz received an O'Connor feed nine yards away from goal, took one step and flicked a shot that made its way through the Bobcat defense and into the back of the net. In a mere three minutes and 25 seconds, the Bears went from down to 2-0 and a 0-2 MAC record, to 2-2 and a chance at .500.

That chance would have to come in overtime. After a tense 10 minutes that saw both squads squander multiple scoring chances, the Bears eased that tension. Melissa Lantz controlled a loose ball and took off down the left sideline. Hile filled the middle. When Lantz and her two goals on the day drew the defense's attention, she fed a streaking Hile, who took the pass on the move and shot from 10 yards out. The ball scooted in the right side of the goal to put the Bears on the right side of the scoreboard, 3-2.  

Lantz finished the weekend with five goals and a game-winning assist against the top two teams in the MAC, but did not receive Offensive Player of the Week honors. However, she was able to help lift the Bears' record to 3-7, and a square 1-1 in the MAC.

A brief respite from conference play suited the Bears just fine. It was time for round two of the Missouri showdown; and this outcome was similar to the last. There were not as many offensive fireworks, but there would be no need for such a display with the defense playing this well. The Bears won 3-0, getting goals from Lantz, Pettey and Grace Baker, her first collegiate goal. Anderson earned an easy second career shutout by saving zero shots. Yes, the Bears defense limited the Saint Louis Billikens to zero shots on goal and only two shots total. The Bears improved to 4-7, and were headed back to conference play.

Back to the MAC
It was definitely a season of close calls, and perhaps the most frustrating of them all came in Muncie, Ind., against MAC rival Ball State. Fresh off exceptional performances against Ohio and Saint Louis, the Bears looked to keep the beat going against the Cardinals. And they did, for 41 minutes. The Bears led 2-0 at halftime and 3-0 early in the second half after Alyssa Hile and Melissa Lantz once again sparked the offense. Hile opened the scoring with her eighth goal of the season, and Lantz scored two straight while also assisting on Hile's goal. The lead would not stand. Ball State scored four unanswered goals, the last coming with less than eight minutes to play, to steal a win from Callahan's squad.

From Muncie to Miami, the Bears faced the Redhawks a day later in Oxford, Ohio MSU was outdone by an offense attack that did not retreat. The Bears fell 9-0, dropping to 4-8, 1-3 in the MAC.

A week later brought rematches against Kent State and Ohio University. Lantz's two goals were not enough against KSU, as eventual MAC Player of the Year Rachel Miller scored the decider with just over five minutes to play, beating the Bears 3-2. Lantz may have finished second to KSU's Debbie Bell for the MAC's overall scoring title, but she outdueled Bell in their head-to-head match ups, five goals to four.

The next day in Athens, the Bobcats were looking to atone for their early-season loss at Plaster Field, and were able to do just that, defeating the Bears 4-2.

On a day when Missouri State was honoring the 30th anniversary of the 1979 AIAW Field Hockey National Championship team, the Bears could not replicate the success of their predecessors against Ball State. Megan Shamleffer gave MSU an early 1-0 lead with her second goal of the season, but that lead, and the Bears' defense, could not withstand Devanny Kuhn. Entering the game with only one goal on the season, Kuhn scored four on four shots, giving the Cardinals a 4-1 lead midway through the second half. Melissa Lantz's 14th goal cut was too little, too late as the Bears fell 4-2 despite dominating every offensive category.  MSU outshot BSU 19-6, 12-4 in shots on goal, and earned 14 penalty corners to Ball State's four.

A day later came Senior Day and the Bears tried to send Molly Busch, Melissa Lantz and Alyssa Hile off in style against Miami. It was Hile who was providing her own stylish sendoff, as she gave the Bears an early lead with her 10th goal. The Redhawks struck seven minutes later, and the two squads went to the half in a 1-1 tie.  It stayed that way until overtime. Early in the extra session, Miami dribbled toward the Bears' end and lost possession, but MSU failed to clear the ball and Miami took advantage. Christine Brightwell stole the ball and fired a shot past Mackenzie Crawford, ending the game and the Bears' season at Plaster Field.

The final weekend of the regular season could not end the Bears' slide. After falling at Central Michigan 4-1 on Halloween, the Bears' played the Chippewas a day later in the regular-season finale. Alyssa Hile's 11th goal of the season put MSU ahead 1-0 in the game's 24th minute. The Chippewas did the rest of the scoring from there, netting three straight goals to cap a 3-1 win.

Early Exit in MAC Tournament
Looking for its first MAC Championship Tournament win since joining the conference in 2005, the No. 6 seeded Bears drew No. 3 Miami in a first-round game. A banged-up MSU team could not get much going against the Redhawks. After tying the score 1-1 with a Stephanie Chases goal in the fifth minute, it was all Miami from there. The Redhawks rolled, 9-1. The Bears 2009 season came to a close with an overall record of 4-16, 1-9 in the MAC.

No Lack of Individual Success
Despite the team's struggles, multiple Bears brought home postseason awards, most notably seniors Melissa Lantz and Alyssa Hile. Lantz was named to the First Team All-MAC while Hile took home Second Team honors. Hile set career highs in goals (11), assists (6), points (28) and shots (58), finishing second on the team to Lantz in each category. She also tied Lantz for the team lead with two game-winning goals.

It truly was a banner year for Lantz, a 2008 Second Team All-MAC player. She finished with 15 goals, nine assists, 39 points and 79 shots and etched her name all over the Missouri State record books. She leaves tied for sixth in goals (38), fifth in assists (17) and second in points (93). Her nine assists in 2009 are the sixth-highest single-season total, while her 39 points are fourth. In 2009, she was also named to the Academic All-MAC Team, the NFHCA National Academic Squad and the Missouri State Athletics Director Honor Roll.

Lantz was not alone in those academic honors. Steph Anderson, Katherine Aslin, Jenna Compton, Kelly Irwin, Kelsey Lomax, Ramie Masters, Chelsey Medlock, Lori Sinclair and Taylor Stellern were all named to both the NFHCA National Academic Squad and the Athletics Director Honor Roll, while Alyssa Hile and Megan Shamleffer were also on the Athletics Director Honor Roll. The Bears were given the NFHCA National Academic Team Award for achieving a team GPA above 3.0 for the 2009 fall semester.   



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