Women’s soccer clinches MAC regular season championship with win over Ohio

Kent State senior forward and midfielder Donavan Capehart takes a shot on goal against Ohio Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017.

Cameron Hoover

Jubilation swept the Kent State women’s soccer team as freshman midfielder Maddie Holmes’ header slid past Ohio goalkeeper Erin Beurket in the 77th minute to give the Flashes a 2-0 advantage.

There were still 13 minutes left to play, but the result was all but sealed.

When the final buzzer sounded, Kent State achieved Mid-American Conference champion status.

“All the work our team has put in all year to build up to this point has been amazing,” Holmes said. “To be in the position that we were, if we were to lose that for ourselves, that would be on us. We were in the perfect position, and we did all we could to finish it up.”

Goals from senior midfielder Kristen Brots in the first half and Holmes in the second led the Flashes to the 2-1 win over the Bobcats Thursday. Ohio sophomore Courtney Daugerdas scored a consolation goal in the 83rd minute, but it wasn’t enough to hold the Flashes from securing first place.

The Flashes finished their regular season at 13-5-1, including 9-2-0 in the MAC.  

The loss caused Ohio to drop to the #8 seed in the MAC Tournament, and the two teams will face off again Sunday in a quarterfinal match.

The stakes entering the game were clear — if the Kent State team won, they would be MAC champions.

Coach Rob Marinaro said the team made sure not to put too much pressure on the game, “the same way we’ve been staying focused all year long — one game at a time.”

“We made sure we had a good start,” Marinaro said. “We build off our starts, and today we made sure we took care of business.”

The clinching victory comes off the back of a disappointing 3-1 loss to Bowling Green Sunday. Brots and Holmes said the team used that setback as a learning experience.

“We weren’t so much angry,” Brots said. “We knew we had to learn from it, especially going into the tournament. We lost a game around the same time last year, and I think it just helps us to come together to work for that next win.”

Holmes said the loss Sunday was a low point for the team.

“That was one of our lower points in the season,” Holmes said. “Coming back two times as hard was essential. We knew once we got that loss out of the way, then we could go from there.”

Marinaro saw the performance as a sign of the team’s resilience despite the Flashes’ poor showing against Bowling Green.

“We weren’t happy with our performance (Sunday),” Marinaro said. “You’ve got to give the team a lot of credit to bounce back. They’ve been doing it all year long. They continue to surprise us on what this team is capable of doing, and they did it again today.”

“It’s not necessarily surprising,” he continued, “but to come in and build continuously off a letdown and bounce right back to do what they did today, … you’ve got to give credit to our unit and the leadership.”

Despite acknowledging the work still remaining, Kent State players and coaches celebrated the conference title after the game.

“It’s a big win for the team to actually win the conference because Ball State won it last year,” Brots said. “This is pretty exciting for us, for the seniors to make history one more time. It’s great for the freshmen and the rest of the team to keep going throughout the years knowing what it’s like to have a championship under your belt.”

Marinaro said he gives credit to the team for “their work, commitment, leadership and team bonding,” which he applauded as “spectacular.”

“They’re a team,” he continued. “Maybe even more than a team — they’re a family.”

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