KSU soccer’s weekend slate includes divisional battle

Ben Orner

The Kent State soccer team is currently stuck in the middle of a heated race for the Mid-American East Conference title, and the team the Flashes face is coming to Zoeller Field on Friday.

Kent State (2-1-1 MAC) is currently third in the MAC East, trailing Miami (3-1 MAC) and Buffalo (4-0 MAC), and the Redhawks will face the Flashes this Sunday on the road.

The Flashes are coming off an upset victory over then MAC West leader and defending conference champs, Western Michigan.

“We bring in a lot of confidence with that win beating last year’s MAC champions,” said senior midfielder Renee Loya, who recorded her first goal of the season against the Broncos on Sunday. 

The Flashes will need all the confidence they can muster because Miami is a dominant team on both sides of the ball.

Redhawks senior Kelsey Dinges leads the MAC in points with 17, while her squad’s past two victories were 2-0 wins over Toledo and Central Michigan.

Miami likes to keep its defense fresh by splitting time between two goalies. Sophomore Vic Maniaci and senior Danielle Wiseman are both 4-1 on the year and will make life difficult for the Kent State offensive corps.

“We need to come out strong,” Loya said. “It’s always going to be a physical game in the MAC.”

One thing the Flashes have done well offensively is scoring quickly. In Sunday’s win over Western Michigan, senior forward Stephanie Haugh scored the game’s opening goal in the eighth minute. Five minutes later, Western Michigan answered, but Kent State sophomore forward Jenna Hellstrom regained the lead for her team by netting a ball in the 17th minute.

“We’ve been practicing on coming out quickly,” Hellstrom said.

On Wednesday, the Flashes put an emphasis on quick scores, as the team spent extra time performing drills on taking crossing passes in the box and scoring quick-strike goals.

Along with scoring quickly and answering goals by opponents, the Flashes can control the tempo of an entire game; something Hellstrom said will be a key factor in this weekend’s matchups.

“Whoever comes to play for 90 minutes is going to win,” she said.

Kent State did a great job commanding the full 90 minutes against Western Michigan. After Hellstrom’s goal in the 17th minute to provide her team a 2-1 lead, the Flashes shut down Western Michigan the rest of the game. Loya added a goal in the 74th minute to put the game out of reach for the Broncos, securing a 3-1 Flashes victory.

After their big divisional matchup against Miami on Friday at 4 p.m., the Flashes will host a lukewarm Ball State team on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Cardinals are third in the MAC West and hold a 6-3-2 record, one less win than Kent State’s 7-3-2 record.

Ever-the-calm coach Rob Marinaro said he isn’t too stressed about a game with big divisional implications.

“There’s plenty of season left,” he said. “You’ve just got to make the most of every opportunity.”

Loya says her team has a clear focus for both games this weekend.

“We need to not let the other teams get in our heads,” she said. “We just need to play our game and focus on ourselves.”

Last year, Kent State lost to Miami, 1-0, and beat Ball State, 1-0. The Flashes haven’t beaten Miami in five years and haven’t lost to Ball State in six years.

Contact Ben Orner at [email protected].