Ready for some ‘MACtion?’


Freshman defender Jaime Eiben takes a shot at goal at the game against Eastern Kentucky University Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. The Flashes won, 3-0.

Ben Orner

After eight games of non-conference play, Kent State soccer is ready to dive into the final 11 games of the season, its conference schedule.

The remaining games will be against MAC teams, which players say, motivate them to rise to the occasion against a tougher set of opponents.

“Everyone is super excited,” goalkeeper Stephanie Senn said. “It feels like a whole new season. One thing that’s automatic every year is that the MAC is a very physical conference, so going into the game healthy and with the mentality that it’s going to be really physical is important.”

To kick off MAC play this season, Kent State, who was picked to finish first in the MAC East this year, will host division rivals Buffalo and Akron on Friday and Sunday, respectively, at Zoeller Field.

Kent State coach Rob Marinaro said his foremost focus is on the match with Buffalo.

“(The Akron game) is important from a school standpoint, but as a team, we’re focused in on Friday,” Marinaro said. “We’ve got to make sure our mentality is right on Friday.”

The players, however, couldn’t be more excited to take on their long-time rival in the Zips.

“Obviously it’s a really important game, so we’re going to come out even harder,” sophomore forward Jenna Hellstrom said.

Senn said she anticipates a MAC showdown with Akron, too.

“It doesn’t matter for both teams what our numbers have been all year, because it’s just forgotten when that game comes up,” Senn said. “It’s always a really close game with Akron.”

The Flashes cruised through non-conference play with a 5-2-1 record and every Kent State win this season has been a shutout.

To keep the momentum rolling and maintain its defensive prowess going, the team has to “keep communicating with each other,” said Senn, who is currently third in the MAC in save percentage.

She said if the defense stays on the same page, it will hold up fine like it has all year.

The shutdown defense was impervious against Buffalo and Akron last year, leading the Flashes to 1-0 and 2-0 wins, respectively.

The team’s offense this year has complemented the defense as well. Kent State has outscored opponents, 12-5, and outshot them, 120-82. Kent State has had 42 corner kicks compared to their opponents’ 26.

Marinaro says he and his squad are well aware of the difficulty of conference games and have the right mentality for them.

“Once you get into conference play, the parity is so strong that you have to come out and compete in every game in each 90 minutes,” he said. “Our focus is on playing the best soccer we possibly can and giving ourselves the best opportunities to win.”

The Flashes finished with a 7-4 conference record in 2013, which clinched a playoff spot. In the first round of last year’s MAC Tournament, they lost to eventual tournament champion Western Michigan, 3-2, in penalty kicks.

Friday’s game against Buffalo is set to begin at 4 p.m., and Saturday’s contest with Akron will start at 1 p.m.

Contact Ben Orner [email protected].