KSU soccer overcomes scoring woes, routs Youngstown State in highly physical matchup

Richie Mulhall

If anyone had any doubts about the Kent State soccer team’s ability to score goals, those doubts were crushed in Friday’s game against Youngstown State.

In a game between two aggressive teams proximate in distance, the Flashes (5-3-0) topped the Penguins (1-7-1) 3-0 to maintain its perfect home record at Zoeller Field so far this season.

The Flashes significantly outshot their opponent 18-5 but had to fight for every shot they took in a physical match that involved a lot of pushing, shoving and bickering amongst the two opposing sides. There were a total of 23 fouls in the game, with only eight being credited to Kent State.

Head coach Rob Marinaro said the high intensity and physicality of the contest could be attributed to the ongoing rivalry between Kent State and Youngstown in recent years. After Friday’s game, the Flashes now have a commanding 10-1 lead in the all-time series between the two teams.

“It’s a crosstown rival, so obviously there’s a little extra edge to this game, but we did a great job matching and meeting it and playing a great game today,” Marinaro said.

The Flashes, who have been considered a second-half team this year, came out swinging with high-energy play in the first half of the game, which Marinaro and the team always stress.

After junior Stephanie Haugh got the ball rolling for her team with a close shot that missed just wide of the goal, she took a corner kick that found freshman Jenna Hellstrom right in front of the goal. Hellstrom booted it in for her third goal of the season just six minutes into the first half.

“I think we did a good job pressing [Youngstown State] and finishing on our opportunities, which makes the difference,” Marinaro said.

Hellstrom was involved in a lot of the aggressive, back-and-forth action against the Penguins and said the high-level intensity coming from a nonconference game this early in the season prepares the Flashes well for future physical games to come, especially in the Mid-American Conference.

“The MAC is really aggressive, and whoever comes out the hardest wins,” Hellstrom said. “Playing these aggressive games is going to help us win because it’s going to make us stronger.”

In addition to Haugh’s first shot attempt and Hellstrom’s goal, Kent State had a lot of solid looks at the net in Friday’s game, especially senior Jessacca Gironda, who racked up three of the Flashes’ nine shots on goal. In the 38th minute of regulation, one of Gironda’s shots finally paid off when she received a penalty-kick opportunity that soared past the goalkeeper and through the net for a score.

The Flashes’ third and final score of the evening came in shocking fashion when senior defender Morgan Mah scored her first goal of the season off a trick penalty kick.

Senior Jaclyn Dunn was lined up to take the penalty shot but craftily hopped over the ball and allowed Mah to kick the ball in the right-hand corner of the goal for a score.

“I was contemplating going far post [left-hand corner of the net], but usually when I’m on the right side of the field, I like to bend it around the wall [of defenders] so the goalie has a lesser chance of getting it,” Mah said.

In addition to the offensive strides Kent State made Friday, the defense recorded its fifth shutout of the season, allowing just three shots on goal. Sophomore goalkeeper Stephanie Senn also had three saves and a number of accurate passes and spot-on punts down the field in her third shutout of the season.

“There were definitely a lot of quality moments in our game, connecting from forwards to midfielders, and even the defenders did a great job jumping into the attack,” Marinaro said. “In the game, you don’t always get that many opportunities, so looking to capitalize is always the key.”

Next week, the Flashes will begin MAC play at home. They will square off with Central Michigan next Friday and then face Bowling Green the following Sunday.

Contact Richie Mulhall at [email protected].