Women’s soccer’s MAC Championship hopes dashed in shootout against Western Michigan

Richie Mulhall

The Kent State women’s soccer team’s season came to a heartbreaking end in the Mid-American Conference Quarterfinal Sunday afternoon after losing 3-2 in a penalty-kick shootout against Western Michigan.

“We ended (our season) with a very successful record, but if you ask the entire team, we wanted to make a much better run in the tournament, but unfortunately we came up short today,” Kent head coach Rob Marinaro said.

The Flashes (12-7-1, 7-4-1 MAC) found themselves in familiar territory with the Broncos as the two adversaries (9-4-5, 7-2-3 MAC) battled back and forth to a 1-1 tie that persisted through 90 minutes of regulation and two 20-minute overtime periods.

With both teams locked in a stalemate after the second overtime, junior Stephanie Haugh and freshman Abbie Lawson hit their penalty shots, but seniors Jessacca Gironda, Morgan Mah and Jaclyn Dutton were unable to sink their penalty kicks.

The Broncos capitalized on the opportunity Kent State left them for them and made three out of four penalty kicks to top the Flashes and seal their spot in the MAC semifinal match-up.

Marinaro said he is not a fan of shootouts deciding games, especially in a close game between two evenly matched rivals, but still commended his team’s efforts.

“I’m tremendously proud of them,” Marinaro said. “They fought and worked so hard today, but unfortunately when it comes to shootouts, it could go either way.”

Early in Sunday’s game, the Flashes came firing out of the gate in the first half when freshman Jenna Hellstrom scored her fifth goal of the season just 13:47 into the game. Senior Katherine Lawrence threw the ball in to sophomore Madison Helterbran, who then launched the ball to Hellstrom. Hellstrom blasted the ball into the lower left-hand corner of the net to take the 1-0 lead.

Gironda, who currently holds the program record for career goals (31), said her team came out clicking on all cylinders and most things were working for the team Sunday; They just did not get the end result they wanted.

Haugh reiterated Gironda’s thoughts and said it was a shame that such a good game had to end in such a disappointing fashion

“We all came out so strong and wanted it so bad, especially for our seniors,” Haugh said. “We played well, and that’s what makes it so hard, knowing that you left in all on the field and it just didn’t come up they way you wanted it to.”

Kent State held onto to its lead throughout the rest of the first half, but in the second half, the Broncos took the game by storm and outshone the Flashes in shots 12-4. Western Michigan tied the game at one after tipping the ball past sophomore goalkeeper Stephanie Senn and into the back of the net.

Haugh said the team played with a lot of heart in the highly physical bout with their MAC opponent. She said there was a lot of dirty play exhibited on both sides of the ball, especially toward the end of the game, but her team fought fire with fire and hung with the Broncos through 110 minutes of play.

Marinaro also said there were quite a few players playing hurt during the game due to the intense physical nature the game entailed; however, he said everyone “laid it out” on the field and he could not have asked any more from them.

Haugh said although the seniors and rest of the team did not reach their ultimate goal of a MAC title this season, every player should look back on the season and walk away with her head held high.

“Every team we played this season, we were better than, and every team we played, we could have beaten this season,” Haugh said. “We have to have a lot of confidence in ourselves a lot of appreciation and gratitude toward our seniors, because they led amazing throughout the whole season, and it’s definitely going to be difficult to go on without them next season.”

Marinaro said the 2014 senior class put the soccer program on the map and should be proud of what they have accomplished. He said during their freshmen years, the seniors only won four games, and now here they stand with a winning record at the end of the season.

“(Kent State soccer) was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with the senior class,” Gironda said. “I love them all, and we fought for each other, and I wouldn’t changed a moment of it.”

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].