Women’s soccer survives MAC Tournament scare, beats Ohio on penalties

Kent State midfielder Vital Kats runs the ball forward during the second half of the MAC quarterfinals at Dix Stadium Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017. 

Cameron Hoover

Maddie Holmes knew the stakes as she approached the penalty spot in the fourth round of penalty kicks Sunday.

If she made her kick, the Kent State women’s soccer team would beat Ohio and move to the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals.

“It’s definitely an awesome feeling,” Holmes said. “But it’s also a really scary feeling. I just kind of go up there and remember it’s just another game playing soccer.”

Holmes rifled the ball past Ohio goalkeeper Erin Beurket, lifting the Flashes to a 4-2 penalty shootout victory.

Holmes whirled around with a smile on her face, and her teammates had already begun to celebrate at midfield.

“That’s an awesome feeling,” Holmes said. “Everybody was there. We knew we had that one in the bag. We just needed to finish it out.”

The two teams were tied 1-1 heading into the overtime periods thanks to goals from Kent State’s Vital Kats and Ohio’s Mandy Arnzen. Kats’ goal was her sixth of the season, two ahead of fellow freshman Isabelle Mihail for the team lead. Sixteen of the Flashes’ 25 goals this season have been scored by freshmen.

The Flashes had their hopes momentarily snuffed out when senior midfielder Kristen Brots scored directly from a corner kick in the 107th minute. Celebrations were short-lived, however, as the goal was disallowed due to a foul in front of the goal. There was one more shot after that chance, but the game remained tied heading into penalties.

“All the adversity that our players overcame today, you’ve got to give them tons of credit for really bouncing through,” said coach Rob Marinaro. “We had a goal that was called back in double overtime. You name it, and they were dealt it today. For them to bounce back and finish it off, you’ve got to give them tons of credit for surviving and advancing.”

Marinaro said the obstacles allowed the team’s leadership to shine through.

“I have to give tons of credit to our leaders and our captains,” he said. “The seniors really stepped up and kept our mentality going. Even going into the penalty shootout, you could hear the seniors telling them, ‘Whatever it takes, we’re going to win this game.’ I have to give them props on, whatever it took, making sure we advanced.”

One of the obstacles the teams had to deal with was the weather: The game time temperature of 36 degrees was the coldest the Flashes endured all year.

“You’ve got to be careful of the tempo that you create and the substitutions that you make,” Marinaro said. “Again, that’s even more adversity that they stepped up to and did what they had to do.”

Kats said the cold weather wasn’t going to stop the team from getting the win. 

“It just made me run more,” she said. “We just had the mindset that we weren’t going to lose today, and we were going to fight from whistle to whistle. The result is all we needed right now. It doesn’t really matter how we played. We’re going to learn from our mistakes and grow for the next game.”

Marinaro acknowledged that teams are going to have ups and downs throughout a postseason run; he just hopes his team got the upset threat out of the way early.

“Hopefully, this was the scare that catapults us to perform even better next time out.”

Kent State plays again at 7 p.m. Friday at Dix Stadium against Bowling Green in a MAC Tournament semifinal.

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