Women’s soccer extends winning streak with 1-0 victory over Toledo

Senior+forward+Hayden+Pascoe+runs+on+a+breakaway+against+the+University+of+Toledo+Thursday%2C+Oct.+19%2C+2017.

Senior forward Hayden Pascoe runs on a breakaway against the University of Toledo Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.

Cameron Hoover

When Vital Kats got the ball from Kristen Brots’ short free kick, she knew what she was going to do with it.

“No luck,” said Kats, a freshman midfielder. “No one was on me. First touch, make sure it’s a good one. Then just put it in the net.”

Kats did just that in the 22rd minute, unleashing a thunderbolt from 20 yards out into the top right corner to lift Kent State women’s soccer (12-4-1, 8-1-0 Mid-American Conference) over Toledo. Rockets freshman goalkeeper Madison Perrin didn’t move as she helplessly watched the ball nestle into the top right corner.

The goal was Kats’ fifth of the season, extending her lead at the top of the Flashes’ goal charts. The team’s three leading scorers (Kats, Isabelle Mihail and Cameron Shedenhelm) are freshmen.

The two halves played out very differently; the Flashes dominated the first, outshooting Toledo 11-5 and winning six corner kicks. Toledo came out of halftime with energy, and Kent State spent much of the second half under pressure.

Toledo outshot the Flashes 7-5 in the second half, receiving two corner kicks, while Kent State had none. A crucial goal-line clearance from defender Sierra Henderson-Muschett off a header from a Toledo corner kept the Flashes on top.

Coach Rob Marinaro said the Flashes used the fast start to try to give the team an early advantage because of Toledo’s pressure.

“We try to build that momentum early,” he said. “We didn’t really sustain that the whole 90 minutes. We allowed Toledo to pick up momentum late in the game, but we defended really well to hold onto that lead.”

Kent State hasn’t given up a goal during their current five-game winning streak.

The Flashes have given up two goals in nine conference games and have only conceded nine all season. The team has only allowed three goals since Sept. 3. Kent State has shut out its opponent in 11 of its 12 wins this season.

Brots, a senior midfielder, picked up her team-leading fifth assist of the season on Kats’ goal. She said the team’s defensive success in recent weeks has given the team a spark.

“Our back line and our goalie have really stepped up lately,” Brots said. “It just gets everyone else playing even harder on defense.”

Marinaro praised the Flashes’ effort in his postgame speech to his team, but also said they had work to do on the attacking side of the ball.

“We battled really hard defensively and won a lot of the 50/50 challenges,” he said. “Now we just need to take care of our opportunities on the offensive end.”

Kent State clinched its second straight MAC East division title with the win. Ball State, which is in second place in the MAC, kept pace with the Flashes with a 2-1 win at Buffalo. The Cardinals remain two points behind Kent State with two games remaining.

Kent State returns to the field to play Bowling Green at 1 p.m. Sunday at Dix Stadium.

Cameron Hoover is a sports reporter. Contact him at [email protected]