By Al Mattei


Kerry DeVries hates to travel, especially in November.

"I'd like to see us being able to play the likes of North Carolina in the second round, rather than the first," said the head coach of three-time defending Mid-America Conference champion Kent State.

Kent State has had spurts of success in the late 1990s, including numerous conference champions, a couple of All-Americans, and one national scoring champion. But in 2000, the Top 10 Golden Flashes were not only obligated to travel, they were obligated to play a host seed in the first round -- something which would usually be required of a team ranked between 12th and 16th.

If Kent State didn't gain respect with the NCAA tournament selection committee with its 2000 campaign, it managed to gain respect with the NCAA tournament site committee, which gave the school something something that might be even more important in terms of the growth of American field hockey.

The gift was the privilege to host the 2001 NCAA Division I Final Four. It is the first time that the tournament will be away from the Eastern seaboard.

In previous years, it would be a challenge to name any NCAA Division I tourney not played on a coastal state. But perhaps in recognition of the inland influences on the game, the change was made.

"I have to credit our athletic department for that," de Vries said. "They put a great proposal together, and we have a great facility for the tournament."

The university itself has been a part of American history for some three decades, thanks to a domestic on-campus shooting during an anti-war protest. Kent State had changed its name a couple of times during the 1990s; the school was called simply Kent University or Kent for some time, but the university has re-embraced its past in recent years.

"We do take the students to the memorial on campus," de Vries said. "It is part of the tour."

The school's field hockey program has been able to attract some very good players in the past few years: fewer better than Elspeth Verterre, a Dutchwoman who put up a single-season scoring total that is among the top 10 performances of all time.

However, she only attended the school for a year. de Vries has, however, been able to attract players with staying power; few better than the firebrand Kristen Clayton (Bensalem, Pa.), whose amazing speed and emotion have put the "flash" in the Golden Flashes the past several years.

Too, a number of excellent young players such as Mary Symonowicz (Piscataway, N.J.), Laura Grandinetti (West Long Branch, N.J.), and Jessica Schanz (Emmaus, Pa.) who will help in the future.

Will it help the team make the Final Four in any other capacity as host? Stay tuned.