Soccer team faces rival Akron


Junior Abbie Lawson kicks the ball from outside the box during a game against Cleveland State University on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015.

Dan Armelli

The Kent State women’s soccer team (4-2-2) heads into this weekend with big matchups as it starts MAC play at Akron (3-4-1) and Buffalo (4-3-1) this weekend.

Barring a meeting between the two teams in this year’s MAC tournament, this will be senior defender Madison Helterbran’s last game against local rival Akron.

During the years Helterbran has been on the team, they have consistently beat the Zips (3-0.) The streak began in 2010.

“I think Akron just being a MAC game, we get excited for it,” Helterbran said. “With the Wagon Wheel challenge, that gets us extra pumped to play them.”

Sophomore forward Karli Paracca, who played in her first Kent-Akron match last year, said there is a special feeling playing against the Zips.

“It’s definitely a really fun game to play,” she said. “Whenever Akron comes, we get really pumped up. The whole college is into the battle.”

The Flashes play for the Wagon Wheel Friday at 9 p.m. at First Energy Stadium–Cub Cadet Field.

Kent will then travel to Buffalo, New York, to face the defending MAC tournament champion Bulls.

The Flashes are 2-3 against Buffalo since 2011, including a contest in the MAC playoffs four years ago. Last year, the Bulls shut out the Flashes at Zoeller Field.

Junior forward Jenna Hellstrom said her team battling for the full 90 minutes will be a big part of avenging Kent’s loss from last year.

“If something doesn’t go our way, then we just have to pick each other up and keep going,” she said.

While Kent is currently ahead of Buffalo in the standings, the Bulls were ranked ahead in Division 1 women’s soccer’s first RPI rankings.

RPI (Rating Percentage Index) is a formula that ranks teams based on its wins, losses and strength of schedule. The Flashes sit at 201 out of the 333 Division 1 teams, while Buffalo is ranked 119.

Though the Bulls won the MAC tournament last year, no one on the team felt like Sunday would be a measuring stick for where the Flashes stand, including coach Rob Marinaro.

“The measuring stick is our own performance,” Marinaro said.

While Helterbran says the team is focused on the one game at a time mentality, she noted that this weekend is still important.

“It’s a big weekend for us,” she said. “We want to get two wins out of it. But each game is a good test for us.”

The Flashes will look to extend its three-game winning streak, though Marinaro said that doesn’t change anything he says to the team.

 “It’s the next game,” he said. “Right now, it’s the start of Mid-American Conference play, and if you don’t show up, you’re going to lose.”

Buffalo will face Ohio University on Friday before its match with Kent on Sunday.

After winning MAC offensive player of the week last week, junior forward Jenna Hellstrom’s teammate, Karli Paracca, was given the award for her performance against Eastern Kentucky.

Paracca, a sophomore forward, scored her third career game-winner against EKU in overtime to win it for Kent. It was her second goal this year to go along with her six points.

Paracca, who won the award once last year as a freshman, said the award was unexpected.

“I was really excited and happy to represent the team,” Paracca said.

She added she was thankful the Flashes were able to come through during overtime.

“Two minutes into overtime, we all just got together and said, ‘We need to end this game,’” she said. “We always say overtime is our time to win it.”

While Marinaro credits his team for his players winning these individual awards, he also said he thought it was a good sign for Paracca.

“It’s nice to see because Karli is such a hard worker,” he said. “It’s nice to see it pay off.”

Hellstrom also recognized Paracca’s hard work and said what she has done in practice is paying off.

“She’s really listening to what coaches are telling her after every practice,” Hellstrom said. “She always has, but she’s really starting to translate what we do in practice to a game.”