Women’s soccer takes commanding MAC East lead with win at Buffalo

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Kent forward Hayden Pascoe and EMU defender Tessa Osborne race for the ball during the game on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017.

Cameron Hoover

The Kent State women’s soccer team established itself as one of the best in the Mid-American Conference with a 1-0 win over Buffalo Sunday.

The win gives Kent State (9-4-1, 5-1-0 MAC) some breathing room at the top of the MAC East. The Flashes now have a few games in hand over Ohio and Buffalo, who are tied in second place with conference records of 3-2-1.

Kent State also has a better record than Ball State, who lead the conference’s West division after the Cardinals’ 3-2 overtime loss to Northern Illinois.

“We’re learning a lot about ourselves,” said coach Rob Marinaro. “We’ve got a lot of younger players, and they’re figuring out what it takes to win in this conference. That’s definitely a component that’s really important to success. Picking up a road win against Buffalo is really a great achievement for our program.”

The decisive goal came in the 57th minute when Hayden Pascoe’s shot bounced off the crossbar and a Buffalo defender past goalkeeper Laura Dougall. The bounces, which Pascoe said were “really lucky,” led to the senior forward’s second goal of the year, her first since the Flashes’ 4-0 win over St. Bonaventure Aug. 27.

“(The goal) felt amazing,” Pascoe said. “But the team just worked so hard the whole time. Our defense played amazing.”

Freshman Vital Kats picked up her fourth assist of the year on Pascoe’s goal. A freshman has either scored or assisted all but one of Kent State’s eight conference goals this season.

The Flashes received a boost from the return of senior forward and midfielder Donavan Capehart, her first appearance since sustaining a leg injury Sept. 7 against the University of Pittsburgh. She didn’t register a shot in her 28 minutes of game time.

The Kent State defense didn’t allow a shot on goal for the second time this season, their first since the win over St. Bonaventure. The team has only given up two goals in six conference games. The shutout was the Flashes’ eighth of the season, including their fourth in the last five games.

“It was a really tough road win,” Marinaro said. “Buffalo’s always a fantastic opponent, very well-coached. It was a hard-fought game today, and we were fortunate to come out with a positive result.”

Kent State junior goalkeeper Ashleah McDonald picked up her sixth shutout of the year. She has given up just seven goals in her 12 games.

Marinaro said it’s important the team doesn’t put too much emphasis on any one result.

“For us right now, we have to just focus on one game at a time, just giving the best individual performance we can as a team, not trying to make too much out of any one game,” Marinaro said. “We’re trying to just play a little bit better each time we come out.”

Pascoe said the game was a “confidence booster” for the Flashes, but, like Marinaro, wanted the team to keep their eyes forward.

“Going on the road next weekend, we know we can do it,” Pascoe said. “We just have to keep working hard 90 minutes, one game at a time.”

The Flashes return to the field to face Northern Illinois at 5 p.m. Friday.

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