As detailed last week in The State News, sophomore midfielder Becky Stiles will be playing for the US team in the under-21 Pan-American Games. In fact, she left the MSU field hockey team on Sunday, prior to their game against Northeastern. This leaves a hole in the Spartan lineup, and it’s one that won’t be easily filled.
Head coach Helen Knull called it “fine-tuning our positions” after Sunday’s game, but basically, the issue is that Stiles played in the center midfield spot, and it’s important to have continuity there. Knull said that, because there’s no standard way to play center mid, each player plays it slightly differently, which means that the rest of the Spartans will have to adjust to whoever happens to be playing there at a given time.
Therefore, the next couple of weeks are going to be hard on an offense that has already struggled to put the ball in the net this season, not to mention a defense that Northeastern torched in the second half of Sunday’s 3-1 loss. Junior goalkeeper Molly Cassidy has earned consistent praise from her coach and was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week two weeks ago, but she was bombarded with shots over last weekend and lineup changes are the last thing she needs.
Nevertheless, Stiles has said previously that she’s looking forward to the opportunity to play in the Games and Knull said she was pleased for her. Now the rest of the team will just have to step up in her absence.
MSU will take on American University on Friday at 6 p.m. at Ralph Young Field in the opening game of the Auto-Owners Insurance MSU Invitational.