Soccer sweeps UNLV Nike Invitational

Ben Orner

It’s unfortunate that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas because Kent State soccer dominated the UNLV Nike Invitational, winning the tournament with two exciting shutout victories.

The Flashes blanked opponents Saint Francis and No. 24 Colorado, 1-0, with the help of Karli Paracca’s first and second career goals, respectively.

“It really felt great,” said the freshman from Valencia, Pa. “It made me feel that I proved myself to the team, and that I can be there to have them count on me. As a freshman coming in, I really need to make sure that my teammates can depend on me.”

Kent State head coach Rob Marinaro said it was “nice to see (Paracca) put a couple in this weekend.”

“She’s a really scrappy, hard-working kid,” Marinaro said. “She had a lot of help behind her, getting her those efforts.”

Marinaro said he felt proud of his players’ performance during the weekend, especially under the scorching Nevada sun.

“There were a lot of obstacles playing in the over-100-degree heat,” Marinaro said.

“They understand that we’re based on hard work and dedication, and this was just an example.”

Both of Kent State’s wins this weekend came late in the games. Paracca’s game-winner against the Colorado Buffaloes came in the 86th minute on a deflection by Colorado’s goalkeeper. In Kent State’s first game of the invitational Friday, Paracca scored her first career goal in the 96th minute to lead the Flashes to an overtime victory against Saint Francis.

The other factors that helped the Flashes sweep the tournament were two outstanding performances by goalkeeper Stephanie Senn. Despite the Flashes being outshot 12-9 and having more fouls than the Buffaloes (8-5), Senn faced two of the best offenses in their respective conferences, recorded 12 saves, never surrendered a goal, and earned her second and third wins of the season.

Senn said the key to her and her team’s performance was communication.

“We had some people in the back who are stepping up, including me, just trying to communicate and keep the team going,” she said.

After its first weekend sweep of the season, Kent State improved to 3-1, and all three of its wins have been shutouts.

Coming into Sunday’s game against Kent State, the Buffaloes were 3-0 and ranked 24th in the country. Last season, Colorado made it all the way to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament before being eliminated by eventual championship runner-up Florida State. The Buffaloes lost six of last year’s players to graduation, including four starting seniors, one of which was Anne Stuller, who led the team in goals, assists and shots.

On Friday, the Flashes out-shot Saint Francis 13-9, including three shots in the last minute of overtime. The loss dropped Saint Francis to a disappointing 0-3 after the top three scorers from its 2013 Northeast Conference championship team graduated.

The Flashes’ next game will be Sunday, Sept. 7, at 1 p.m. at Cleveland State. The Vikings are currently 1-3 on the year with two games to play before their match against the Flashes.

Contact Ben Orner at [email protected]