The Kent State soccer team will encounter Mid-American Conference competition yet again this weekend as it gets set to take on conference rival Buffalo (4-5-2, 1-3-0 MAC) and longtime adversary Akron (4-6-2, 1-3-0 MAC).
The Flashes (7-5, 2-2 MAC) will face the Buffalo Bulls on Friday to finish their road trip, then return home to Zoeller Field on Sunday to play against the Zips as part of the ongoing PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge.
These two rivals collide in sports every year and compete for the right to claim the prized Wagon Wheel trophy. The Flashes currently hold a half-point lead over the Zips, and this weekend’s game will add to the excitement and intensity the rivalry creates across all facets of the Kent State-Akron feud.
“It’s definitely very special to play Akron,” said senior forward Jessacca Gironda, who may be playing Akron for the last time of her career. “I think it’ll be awesome if we go out with a victory just to seal the deal. We’ve won the past couple years, so we just need to finish it off the right way.”
Gironda, who recently was named the Kent State Student-Athlete of the Week and MAC Scholar-Athlete of the Week for her standout performance against Bowling Green on Sept. 29, said having the hometown crowd behind the Flashes will give them the confidence they need to defeat their foe, especially because Kent State is 5-1 at Zoeller Field this season.
“We’ve had better results here than on the road, so I think it’ll definitely be an advantage,” Gironda said. “Whenever we play Akron, everyone’s always fired up and ready to go, so I think playing here and playing Akron will make for a great match.”
Kent State head coach Rob Marinaro hopes his team will feed off the hometown fans, continue to start games with high-energy and try to reap the rewards of ideal scoring opportunities.
Marinaro said he expects to see a lot of what his team has already been producing, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
“We need to make sure we get a good start, make sure we’re high energy to start games and look at capitalizing more on our opportunities,” Marinaro said.
Kent State, which is vying for the top spot in the conference’s East Division, currently sits at second in the standings behind Miami and looks to continue to move up the MAC ranks after this weekend.
“I think we’re coming to a better understanding that we’re capable of really good things,” Marinaro said. “We just need to put a solid 90 minutes together, and I think we’re building more confidence towards that.”
Friday night’s action against Buffalo begins at 7 p.m., and Sunday’s PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge clash with Akron kicks off at 1 p.m.
Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected]