Defense the key to Kent State soccer’s early success


Kent State freshman Kristen Brots watches her shot against Western Illinois at the season opening game Friday, August 22, 2014. The Flashes beat the Leathernecks 3-0.

Ben Orner

Legendary college football coach Bear Bryant once said, “Defense wins championships.” He was obviously talking about football, but his remarks can also be translated into soccer.

The Kent State women’s soccer team is currently 4-1 and riding a three game winning streak, and the key to the team’s early success has been defense.

The women have beaten their opponents in total points by a combined score of 6-1. They started the season with a 3-0 win over Western Illinois, but then fell to St. Bonaventure 1-0.

Since that sole loss, they’ve won three straight games by 1-0 scores and are one of the strongest teams, especially defensively, in the Mid-American Conference.

According to the team’s defensive players, there have been multiple contributing factors to the strong defensive play this season.

“We’re communicating really well with each other,” junior defender Briana Bartolone said.

For sophomore defender Brittany Maisano, it’s all about chemistry.

“For me, personally, I’m learning how everyone plays,” she said. “I know now how Bri [Bartolone], Mariah [Sidwell], [Steph] Senn and Alyssa [Meier] play together.”

Maisano went on to mention how she and her defensive teammates are doing well with the team’s offensive pressure.

The Flashes defensive front has done an exceptional job shutting its opponents’ forwards from scoring opportunities. In Sunday’s game against Cleveland State, the Flashes only allowed one shot on goal.

However, statistics like these to the defense’s credit shouldn’t take away from goalkeeper Stephanie Senn’s performance this year. The junior is currently third in the Mid-American Conference in shutouts (4), save percentage (.941) and goals against (1).

Senn says a big part of her early success is her experience playing with the defense.

“It’s not our first year all playing together,” Senn said. “We’ve all been back there before, so we’re all on the same page with what we should be doing.”

Coming into this season, the team lost its two best starting senior defenders to graduation in Katherine Lawrence and Morgan Mah, which head coach Rob Marinaro said was a challenge replacing them.

“We always discussed that we needed to make sure that we were solidified in the back,” Marinaro said. “In the first few days of preseason and even longer, we were looking at making sure we knew exactly who was playing in the back and making sure that we built from the back forward.”

The 13th year head coach said he didn’t have any expectations for the defense this season because he wanted to take things day-by-day.

Along with defensive, freshmen Jaime Eiben and Adrianna Curie, the Flashes recruited transfer student and redshirt senior Alyssa Meier from the University of Pittsburgh for some added help and experience.

“The players came in and worked extremely hard and are producing extremely well,” Marinaro said.

Marinaro is pleased that his team is playing to its full potential in spite of the talent it lost.

“Everyone’s playing extremely well,” he said. “Our overall team defense is excellent, and our defenders are playing fantastic.”

The Flashes travel to the University of Louisville Sunday at 1 p.m. The Cardinals are currently 2-3 and have only scored five goals in five games, while Kent State has scored six in five. Louisville has one more game to play before they host Kent State, which is a match against Morehead State on Friday.

Senior defender Mariah Sidwell said the Flashes need to watch their gaps and make sure no shots get by the defense when facing Louisville.

“We’ve been playing really compact lately, so if we keep doing that, [the Cardinals] aren’t getting forward,” Sidwell said.

Marinaro is focused especially on, “making sure that every game we come out and see if we can produce something better every time.”

“More than anything,” he said. “We’re just looking at continued improvement from ourselves.”

Contact Ben Orner at [email protected].