Second half comeback propels women’s soccer to MAC opener win

Freshman forward Isabelle Mihail races Central Michigan defender Ally Viazanko for the ball during a game on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017.

Cameron Hoover

Sierra Henderson-Muschett is used to making sure goals don’t cross the goal line.

Usually, she is doing things that don’t show up on the statistics sheet after the matchup is over: blocking opponents’ shots and trying to keep other players from where they want to be.

But on Friday, she got to be the hero for the women’s soccer team when she slotted the ball into the bottom left corner in the 63rd minute to push the Flashes to a 2-1 victory over Central Michigan. The game was the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.

“Games are won and lost in the box,” said Henderson-Muschett, “so I just stayed in and tried to get a touch on it and direct it toward the net.”

The Flashes (5-3-1, 1-0 MAC) found themselves down 1-0 at halftime after Central Michigan’s Lexi Pelafas headed the ball past Kent goalkeeper Ashleah McDonald for the opening goal.

“We weren’t defending very well (in the first half),” said coach Rob Marinaro. “We were getting beat to a lot of the 50/50 balls. We just talked about the matchups (during halftime), how we were going to defend, how we were going to apply a bit more pressure on them, and they came out and did a fantastic job … creating opportunities, and we took advantage.”

The halftime adjustments paid off. Kent pounced on Central Michigan (5-3-1, 0-1 MAC). Just two minutes after the half began, Kent’s Karli Paracca got the ball just outside the box, worked it onto her preferred right foot and launched it into the top right corner.

“In the first half, we kind of lacked our fight,” said Paracca. “We always come out with grit, and in the second half, we knew we had to come out a lot harder or else we were going to lose this game. So I just wanted to get the spirits up and keep the positivity up and get everyone going, and I did it.”

The breakthrough came for Kent just 15 minutes later as the ball came darting through the box off the foot of freshman Karly Hellstrom, off of what seemed to be a miscued shot. Henderson-Muschett pounced on the loose ball and slid it past Central Michigan keeper Zoie Reed for what would inevitably be the contest’s deciding goal.

“Honestly, it’s an indescribable feeling,” said Henderson-Muschett. “I can’t even believe it actually happened. It’s just nice to finally do something that you know helps the team.”

The victory marks a winning start to conference play for the Flashes, who are defending their MAC title from last season. Coach Marinaro highlighted the win as a good benchmark in showing the team’s younger players what it takes to succeed in conference matchups.

“The intensity builds up a little bit, and you’re playing a little bit more for results, so it becomes a more physical match,” said Marinaro. “We just needed to show a little bit more composure, but we just did an excellent job coming out in the second half and changing the game.”

Henderson-Muschett saw the second half comeback as a good sign of things to come in conference play moving forward.

“I think it’s great, especially against a team like Central Michigan, who we tied last year in conference,” she said. “It really just shows teams that just because we’re down, it doesn’t mean that we’re out of the game.”

The Flashes return to the field at 1:00 p.m. Sunday at Dix Stadium as they continue conference play against Eastern Michigan.

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