Flashes top Pitt on Mihail’s late goal

Kent State senior forward Hayden Pascoe attempts a pass during the first half against University of Pittsburgh Thursday, Sep. 7, 2017.

Cameron Hoover

It was an exciting end to a sloppy night Thursday as freshman Isabelle Mihail scored her first collegiate goal for Kent State in the 89th minute to beat the University of Pittsburgh, 1-0.

The game remained deadlocked for most of the night as a consistent rain pounded the field from start to finish.

As the field dampened, play reacted accordingly: First touches went astray, passes skipped past outstretched legs and, perhaps most noticeably, physicality ratcheted up.

“We’ll see that (physicality) more and more as the season goes along,” said coach Rob Marinaro. “We’ve built a little bit of a rivalry against Pitt. … It’s usually a one-goal game (against them), so you’re going to see some more physical play. But I thought we dealt with it very well, and we were fortunate with the outcome.”

The first half finished at a 0-0 stalemate as neither team could gain a discernible edge over the other. Most possession was kept in the midfield and neither team had any clear-cut chances.

The second half played out much the same way until less than two minutes left.

The play made its way from the back line to the midfield, as senior Hayden Pascoe dribbled through the middle of Pitt’s defense.

Pitt goalkeeper Katelyn McEachern came off her line to meet Mihail, who capped the play off like a seasoned veteran, coolly lobbing the ball over the keeper to give the Flashes the win.

“I was just thinking, ‘I had to do it,’” Mihail said, “because we played so hard. We worked so hard. Ashleah (McDonald) made some really nice saves in the last couple minutes and I just knew I had to … finish it off.”

McDonald made four saves, including some key stops in the final minutes to deny clear scoring opportunities for Pitt.

The junior goalkeeper anchored the Flashes to their third clean sheet of the season, including their second in as many games.

“The defense was incredible,” said McDonald. “Props to them today. They really held it together back there. It was a great game.”

Marinaro said the team focused on keeping their shape and defending well heading into the game.

“Pitt’s a very athletic team — really crafty with the ball. I thought we defended extremely well today. We got some great saves out of Ashleah, and … it was great quality.”

Perhaps the only damper on an otherwise excellent night for the Flashes came early in the second half when redshirt senior Donavan Capehart went down clutching her leg after a hard challenge. She left the game and didn’t return.

No update on her condition was immediately available following the game.

“(Capehart) is a great spirit for this team,” Marinaro said. “So I thought they rallied around that quite nicely, and they really picked up the momentum. I think we lost it there for a little bit there late in the game, where we had to step up with some good saves and some quality defending.”

The intensity was palpable in the stadium from start to finish as the two teams fought tooth and nail for a result that ended in favor of the Flashes.

Challenges flew in hard and heavy, and players could be seen jawing at each other throughout. But nothing was going to get in Mihail’s way tonight.

“The rain will never stop us,” she said. “Weather will never stop us. We’re just going to keep pushing through like it’s nothing and move forward as a team.”

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