Soccer’s weekend split seals MAC East title

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Israel Garza III / The Kent Stater Senior goalkeeper Ashleah McDonald goes to kick the ball in the game against Ball State University Sunday, Oct 23, 2016. The game ended in a loss for the Flashes with a score of 1-2.

Carly Evans

The top two soccer teams in the Mid-American Conference faced off Sunday.

Kent State (11-2-2, 7-1-2 MAC), No. 1 in the MAC East, was on a 13-game unbeaten streak. Ball State University (13-3-2, 8-1-1 MAC), ranked first in the MAC West, had a similar 10-game run until a loss to Ohio University (5-11-1, 3-7 MAC) Thursday, Oct. 20.

Ultimately, the West came out on top.

A 2-1 overtime loss to the Cardinals Sunday gave the Flashes their first conference loss and second loss of the season.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” head coach Rob Marinaro said. “But as I told the team we gotta take this, learn from it and just move on. We can’t allow this to creep into the next game or into our mindset. We have the playoffs coming in, so we have to prepare ourselves to be the best we possibly can, come tournament time.”

The Flashes and the Cardinals were evenly matched in the first half. Both defenses were impenetrable holding each other to five shots. Ball State didn’t have any saves, but Kent State made one.

In the second half, Kent State struck first with a goal in the 52nd minute. Senior midfielder Abbie Lawson played the ball into Ball State’s penalty box. The ball bounced around until senior forward Jenna Hellstrom was able to head the ball into the goal, for her 13th goal of the season.

After Kent State’s goal, the momentum shifted in Ball State’s favor. The Cardinals took control of possession and forced Kent State to play more defensively than they had in the first half. Ball State had 12 shots in the second half compared to Kent State’s five.

In the 76th minute, freshman Yela Ziswiler of Ball State, blasted a ball into the top corner of the net to tie the game and ultimately send it to overtime.

“A game comes in waves,” Marinaro said. “We scored, and then we allowed them to pick up the momentum … we got caught defending a little bit more than we would like. We just didn’t create our offense enough.”

The Flashes came out strong in the first overtime period. Hellstrom drew a foul near the corner flag and Kent State had a dangerous free kick with a chance to win the game because of the golden goal rule.

Hellstrom played the ball into the box, and it went into the back of the net. But the goal was ultimately called back due to a goalie-interference call.

Ball State got the ball back and staged a counter attack. Ball State’s Sam Kambol was able to dribble through Kent State’s defense and score in the 97th minute, to win the game.

“I think they’re building themselves up right now,” Marinaro said about the Flashes. “We have great leadership, and they really set a great example on making sure we come back to what makes us successful.”

If Ball State loses to the University of Miami (OH) Thursday, and Kent State beats Ohio University, the Flashes can still seal the No. 1 seed and secure home-field for all playoff games.

Miami’s 2-0 loss to Ohio Sunday gave the Flashes the outright MAC East regular season championship for the first time since 2011.

The Flashes will play Ohio University Thursday in Athens at 3 p.m.

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