Women’s soccer splits weekend MAC games; senior Johnson scores first career goal

Ritchie Mulhall

The Kent State soccer team (11-7, 6-4 Mid-American Conference) split its MAC games this weekend by falling to Northern Illinois 1-2 Friday before bouncing back and defeating Toledo 3-1 on the road.

The Flashes, who are now only one game away from the MAC Quarterfinal game, are on their last road game series of the regular season.

Kent State played the Northern Illinois Huskies (6-9-3, 4-4-2 MAC) Friday under the lights in a game that Kent State head coach Rob Marinaro said looked “very similar” to last Sunday’s losing effort against MAC adversary Eastern Michigan.

Marinaro said he thought his team could have played much better on Friday and echoed a few of the same sentiments he had about the Flashes’ low level of play they exhibited against Eastern Michigan.

“I thought we gave Northern (Illinois) a little more time and space, but more so against Northern, we really didn’t play our style of offense, and we didn’t really create the opportunities that were necessary for a positive result,” Marinaro said.

Neither team in Friday’s game was able to generate any kind of offense, especially in the first half. Senior Jessacca Gironda scored Kent State’s first and only goal of the game just one minute into regulation, but that was about it from the offensive side of the spectrum for Kent State.

Northern Illinois tallied its two goals off a long 30-yard shot and a penalty kick in the 37th and 59th minutes respectively.

Senior Jaclyn Dutton said the team was just disconnected Friday. She said the Flashes came out with a quick burst of energy in the beginning of the game thanks to Gironda’s goal, but then slowly faded away into the same on-field discord the team felt last Sunday.

“Over the weekend, we got together as a team and just had a positive mentality and decided that we were gonna work together and work our hardest because the season’s coming to a close,” Dutton said.

The Flashes used that bonding experience to their advantage and came out much stronger in Sunday’s game against the Toledo Rockets (5-12-1, 2-7-1 MAC).

Marinaro said Sunday’s game saw a nice turnaround and quality, game-winning performances from his team. He said the Flashes started clicking better offensively by getting the ball out wide in order to attack the opponent’s defense.

“We just had a lot more composure and were able to keep that composure, play our game and it made the difference,” Gironda said.

Dutton notched her second goal of the season off a Gironda pass, but then Toledo retaliated and evened the score at one going into halftime.

When the two MAC teams returned to battle in the second half, Gironda tacked on her 12th goal of the season in the 57th minute of regulation off a pass from sophomore Madison Helterbran. With a 2-1 lead and only 30 minutes left to play, Kent State’s most exciting goal of the day was still yet to come.

Kent State tallied its third and final goal Sunday when Gironda blasted a corner kick to junior Stephanie Haugh, who then passed the ball to senior Megan Johnson. Johnson headed the ball into the back of the net for the score.

The goal was Johnson’s first goal of her career, and she said she could not believe that she actually scored.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” Johnson said. “I was waiting for someone to tell me that that didn’t happen or deflected off somebody else, so I’m pretty shocked and pretty excited,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s fellow senior teammate Jaclyn Dutton, who has played alongside Johnson her entire career in a blue and gold uniform, said Johnson’s goal was the most fun goal the team scored all season.

“She got a real good kick out of scoring her first goal, which was a fantastic effort,” Marinaro said.

The Rockets outshot the flashes 19-7 and touted a commanding 8-1 advantage in corner kicks, but Kent State’s defense stayed sealed and held Toledo to only one goal.

“Our defense did a really good job of putting a body on someone fast and clearing the ball out,” Dutton said. “(Toledo) had shots, but we were able to claim opportunities way better than they were, and that’s what matters.”

The Flashes will hit the road one final time this regular season to take on Ohio University Thursday at 3 p.m.

Contact Ritchie Mulhall at [email protected].