KSU Soccer to host Western & Eastern Michigan in final regular season home stand

Richie Mulhall

With its season winding down and crunch time prevalent as ever, the Kent State soccer team (9-5, 4-2 Mid-American Conference) faces a crucial, game-filled weekend.

The Flashes, which are currently leading the MAC East Division in the standings, will host MAC opponents Western Michigan (7-3-3, 5-0-1 MAC) and Eastern Michigan (7-6-1, 4-2 MAC) Friday and Sunday respectively at Zoeller Field. Kent State is coming off a huge weekend sweep when it defeated Buffalo 1-0 on the road and then came home to blank rival Akron 2-0 to earn a point in the PNC Wagon Wheel Challenge.

Senior forward Jessacca Gironda, who scored all three goals resulting in a pair of wins for the Flashes last weekend, said this weekend’s MAC games will be crucial for her team.

“I think it’s a very important weekend for us,” Gironda said. “We want to gain some ground and continue to move up in the standings.

“We’re playing two really great teams, so I think it will be a good experience for us.”

Western Michigan remains the only undefeated team left in the MAC. They are also second in the conference in goals with 25.

Senior Jaclyn Dutton said a pair of wins this weekend will give the Flashes the opportunity to show the MAC what they’re made of and prove to their conference opponents why they belong at the top of the division.

“We’re top-seeded right now, and we definitely want to come out with a MAC East Championship, so that’s why this weekend is so huge when I talk about standings,” Dutton said.

Dutton, who will be playing her last regular season games for Kent State at home this weekend, said she and her team are excited to play the Broncos and Eagles in front of the hometown crowd at Zoeller Field. She said the support of the Kent State fans has been “phenomenal” and has boosted the Flashes’ morale during some tough home games at home.

“We’ve had a lot of supporting fans out, family members, friends and out-of-state and out-of-country fans as well,” Dutton said. “It was great at the Akron game because it was a great turnout. It really adds a lot of excitement and intensity to the game when we’re there, and we hear fans yelling and screaming, so it’s great.”

Looking back at the home victory against Akron, Dutton said she thinks her team has been communicating well and hopes to bring that central element to the field come Friday and Sunday.

“A lot of that (communication) has come from organization in practice and just being able to (be) aware of what we can see on the field,” Dutton said. “We’ve been working on our formation a lot, so I think that has helped in the past games.”

Non-starters for the Flashes have also stepped up in recent weeks to help the team achieve success, especially since a few of the Kent State’s starters have been out due to injury.

Senior Shelby Simmons, who considers herself more of an off-the-field presence than an on-the-field force, almost had a goal last Sunday in the Akron game.

“I create things and stir up plays,” Simmons said. “I’ll just go out there and run my butt off and just try to contribute any way I can.”

The rivalry between Kent State and these two teams from the Great Lakes State showcases a rich, deep-rooted history of conference competition. The Flashes will face the Broncos for the 16th time and the Eagles for the 17th time.

Kent State leads the all-time series with Western Michigan 7-6-2, but Eastern Michigan has a slight 9-7-0 edge in its all-time series with the Flashes.

Kent State will go head-to-head with MAC powerhouse Western Michigan at 4 p.m. Friday and face Eastern Michigan at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Gironda named MAC Offensive Player of the Week

Gironda was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Week for her outstanding performances against Buffalo and Akron last weekend. This is the second time this season Gironda has received the honor.

She said the award was bittersweet because she would not have gotten the award without her teammates’ help.

“Obviously if I was scoring and we weren’t winning it wouldn’t make a difference,” Gironda said, “so it’s awesome to get (the accolade), but it’s also a reflection of how well the team is doing.”

Gironda, who has been on a scoring tear lately, currently leads the team in goals (10) and points (24). She also ranks third in Kent State women’s soccer history in points (61) and goals (27).

Gironda said although breaking the school record in goals and points would be something to hang her hat on, she said her ultimate goal is to score more goals and do anything she can to help her team win during her final soccer season at Kent State.

“Would I love to end with more goals to get the record? Of course, but really what I’m going for is to win the MAC tournament, so I know I can help in any way,” Gironda said. “If that means scoring goals, if that’s what my role is, that’s what I will continue to do.”

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected] .