Soccer looks to continue success into next season

Carly Evans

Since the start of the Kent State women’s soccer season in the Mid-American Conference in 1997, five teams have been able to repeat as MAC Tournament champions.

Kent State wants to be the sixth.

“Obviously it was a great season,” coach Rob Marinaro said. “I think that started with the team picking some captains that really came through with strong leadership. They started the season by setting a great tone, a high work rate and these things ended up being a big part of our success. They really pushed each other to achieve the most that they could.”

The captains — junior forward Donavan Capehart, senior forward Jenna Hellstrom and senior midfielder Abbie Lawson — accounted for 21 of the 38 goals scored this season.

“(This season) is one of the coolest things I have done and ever will do,” Capehart said. “It took a few days after the loss at Northwestern (University) to realize what a great achievement it was. Looking back on winning the first MAC Championship in school history is an incredible thing to be a part of.”

The Flashes set a program record for most wins in a season with 15, went on a 13-game unbeaten streak and hosted the MAC tournament for the first time in school history. The team also earned the first NCAA tournament berth in school history.

Kent State will lose five seniors, three of whom are All-MAC players.

“It’s important to start thinking about next season now and we go into off-season practices,” Capehart said. “The seniors aren’t going to be there, so I want to continue the culture they created. Going forward, the team is on the same page, even though we’re losing five impactful players.”

Hellstrom broke the school points record, assists record and career goals record. She was MAC Offensive Player of the Year and was named to the first team All-MAC and the MAC All-Tournament Team. Lawson was named second team All-MAC and the MAC All-Tournament team. Senior defender Brittany Maisano was second team All-MAC.

“Abbie Lawson was the voice on and off the field and the best captain I’ve ever had,” Capehart said. “She impacted the team in ways you don’t always see on the field. Jenna has the most passion for the game that I’ve ever seen, and the team constantly looked to her on the field to bring that fire. Brittany is a little bit quieter, but she put every ounce of energy she had into every single play. We have big shoes to fill, but I think we have the feet to fill those shoes.”

Junior midfielder Kristen Brots and sophomore defender Paige Culver were named to the MAC All-Tournament team. Culver was also named to the first team All-MAC. Capehart was second team All-MAC and defender Sierra Henderson-Muschett was named to the All-MAC Freshman Team.

“The one thing that you can’t replace is the leadership you lose when you lose seniors, and you can’t do that by recruiting,” Marinaro said. “Our juniors have got to step up and be strong leaders. What we need to do immediately is figure out which players can step up into those leadership roles and keep us headed in the right direction.

Marinaro said next year’s team is going to have to find its own identity — one that will be totally different from this year’s.

“We can’t try and replicate exactly what we did last year,” he said. “We have to figure out what’s going to produce the best results for the team we have coming … next year.”

The Flashes used a “one game at a time” philosophy to keep them grounded and prepared this season, and Marinaro sees that going into next season as well.

“What happened, happened,” Marinaro said. “What’s ahead of us is what we need to focus on.”

Carly Evans is a sports reporter, contact her at [email protected]