Soccer’s offense catches fire as it sweeps the weekend

Dan Armelli

After getting shut out in the first half against Western Michigan on Friday, the Kent State women’s soccer team went on to score nine points in the next three halves, sweeping the weekend.

The real offensive firepower came out on Sunday against Northern Illinois, when redshirt sophomore Donavan Capehart scored a hat trick to help fend off the Huskies 7-3. The Flashes are now 7-3-2 on the year and 3-1 against Mid-American Conference play.

Kent State head coach Rob Marinaro said he was impressed with how the Flashes were able to advance the ball over the weekend.

“I think we did some real great stuff on the offensive side,” he said. “We really created a lot of opportunities and we finished on a lot of those chances. When you do that, you’re going to put yourself in games and allow yourself to win.”

The Flashes began their weekend on Friday against WMU, who received two preseason votes to win the MAC.

The first goal of the game came in the forty-first minute. WMU senior forward Irene Young lofted a corner kick over the arms of freshman goalie Ashleah McDonald and straight into the far top corner of the net.

Marinaro said there was little the defense could have done to prevent that shot from going in.

“It’s kind of tough; the ball’s swirling in and the wind’s kind of helping it bend in and there are a lot of people in (the box),” he said. “We need to clean that up, but those are things that can happen when there are big crowds (of players.)”

The Broncos bookended the first half with sustained offensive possessions. The Flashes could not seem to keep the ball on the Broncos’ side of the field.

It was the first time since Sept. 6 against New Hampshire that the Flashes did not go into halftime leading in either shots or corner kicks.

Kent State started the second half with more opportunities on offense.

In the sixty-seventh minute, Flashes junior defender Brittany Maisano came close to connecting on a cross in the box. One minute later, she took it upon herself and fired the ball into the top right corner of the net to tie up the score 1-1.

Maisano said she likes running up to the offensive side to make plays.

“We train that the defenders are supposed to run up and I was screaming like crazy for the ball,” she said. “Jenna (Hellstrom) passed it to me and I just kind of shot it.”

In the seventy-fifth minute, the Broncos had their last best chance to take another lead, but McDonald made the save with a low dive to the ground.

With less than five minutes left, the Flashes were threatening.

After a cross from sophomore defender Jaime Eiben and a header from senior defender Briana Bartolone, junior forward Jenna Hellstrom knocked in her career high eighth goal of the season to make it 2-1. It was Hellstrom’s team- and conference-leading fourth game winner of the year.

“Bartolone headed the ball and then I was there to hit it in the left corner,” Hellstrom said. “I think it wasn’t out of the blue, but I was in the right spot at the right time. It was a great header from (Bartolone), who helped assist it.”

The assists from Bartolone and Eiben were their respective firsts on the season.

On Sunday, the Flashes gave up a season high three goals, but scored a season high seven against Northern Illinois, with three of the scores coming from Capehart.

For the fifth consecutive game, the Flashes gave up the first goal on a fast break finished by NIU freshman forward Taylor Sarver in the eighteenth minute.

Two of the Huskies’ goals came via quick fast breaks. Senior defender Madison Helterbran said those types of scores are something that are easily preventable.

“Just as a whole defensive line we need to communicate it better so that doesn’t happen,” she said. “We let them back into the game way too easily when they shouldn’t have had a chance to.”

Kent State responded quickly with a goal two minutes later by Hellstrom on an assist by sophomore forward Hayden Pascoe. It was Hellstrom’s team-leading ninth goal of the year.

Pascoe then fired in a goal of her own in the twenty-second minute, assisted by sophomore midfielder Kristen Brots.

Pascoe noted that she was not looking to score for herself, rather to just get the Flashes the lead.

“We were all excited from Jenna’s goal,” she said. “With her goal and us needing another one to keep going; Kristen played me a great ball. So I just shot and I scored. I was really excited.”

A free kick by senior defender by Madison Helterbran found freshman defender Paige Culver, who spun it into the back of the net in the twentieth minute.

The Flashes finished off the first half with a goal by sophomore forward Karli Paracca who rebounded a save by NIU sophomore goalie Amy Annala.

The Huskies started off the second half with a goal in the fiftieth minute. However, the Flashes once again had a timely response with a goal by Capehart 40 seconds later.  

Marinaro questioned whether the Flashes’ quick responses to NIU’s first two goals were a result of them getting re-focused.

“I don’t know if it’s a direct result, but we have to have a little more consistent play and not allow something to spark us in that manner,” he said. “We definitely need to clean some things up defensively. But we’re creating opportunities and we’re playing some pretty nice soccer.”

A testy game reached its boiling point in the sixty-second minute when NIU drew a penalty in the box. After the Huskies capitalized to make it 5-3, Helterbran was given a yellow card.

The head official was hearing complaints from both sides: coaches, players, and fans. He even responded to some of the fans throughout the game.

Marinaro thought the overall result of the game was a good response, but that the team needs to play smarter.

“We can’t get caught up in those types of situations, (need to) stay away from the negative stuff that happens on the field and continue to create opportunities for ourselves,” he said.

Within the next five minutes, the Flashes sealed the win with two more goals by Capehart, giving her seven goals on the season.

Hellstrom was the other the Flashes’ other player to receive a yellow card. It was her fifth of the season.

According to the NCAA Soccer 2014 and 2015 Rules and Interpretations:

“12.11.1 Regular-Season Games. Any player(s) or coach(es) who has received a total of five cautions in one season shall be suspended and shall not participate in the next regularly scheduled game, including postseason games.”

Hellstrom will sit out Friday’s game in Ball State but will play in Oxford against Miami of Ohio on Sunday.

Even with the two wins this weekend, Marinaro thinks there was some inconsistency that the team needs to clean up.

“I think on Friday we had a slow start in the first half against Western and played very well in the second half,” he said. “I thought we had a pretty decent start here against Northern but we threw it in waves and when you’re not necessarily on, you’ve got to tighten up the defense and make sure we’re not allowing them to create opportunities. Those are some of the things we’ll focus on this week.”

Dan Armelli is a sports reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].