As has been previously documented, the MSU field hockey team is currently without its starting center midfielder, sophomore Becky Stiles. Stiles is in Guadalajara, Mexico, with the U.S. under-21 team, competing in the under-21 Pan-American Games.
In her absence, MSU has had to adjust to different players in Stiles’ spot, head coach Helen Knull said.
“It’s kind of a constant work in progress, positionally,” Knull said. “When you have a center mid who has consistently played and you know her style of play, (losing her means) adjustments for the team around her.”
Knull explained that center midfielder is one of the more important positions on the field.
“Your goalie and center mid are your playmakers,” she said. “Ideally, you want (your center mid) to be in the passing lanes and change the point of attack on the field. Becky’s very confident, and she’s good at transferring the ball. We’re using different people who aren’t used to having the ball right in the middle of the field with a lot of pressure on them.”
Knull said that although the team struggled a bit on Friday against American, she liked what she saw from sophomores Allie Ahern and Jenni Smith and senior Corey Block on Sunday in MSU’s 2-1 overtime win over Louisville.
As for the players, they aren’t worried. Sophomore forward Abby Barker, who scored two goals — including the game-winner in overtime — against the Cardinals, said the team tries not to focus on which players are playing and which players aren’t.
“Honestly, we’re a team,” Barker said. “So it doesn’t really matter who’s on the field. Everyone works together so well.”
Senior forward Jessica Lindner said the Spartans haven’t changed much since Stiles left.
“I think that we really haven’t done anything differently,” Lindner said. “I think that we have amazing players and an amazing bench. (Playing without Stiles) hasn’t been an adjustment at all because the people who have stepped in have stepped up.”
That’s not to say the players don’t miss her, however.
“Yeah, we’re missing Becky,” Barker said. “But everyone stepping up to fill her role has been great.”
Knull isn’t concerned about being able to win going forward, despite any adjustments the team has been forced to make.
“We’re playing a different style from what we played the first couple weeks of the season,” Knull said. “It’s not better or worse; it’s just different.”
Stiles is expected to be back with the team in time for their game against Indiana on Sept. 28 at Ralph Young Field.