Women’s soccer looks for more success in 2011 season

Matt Lofgren

After a disappointing 2010 campaign, the 2011 installment of Kent State’s soccer team is relying on some old and new faces for a shot at the Mid-American Conference title. With six incoming freshmen and last season’s top goal scorer returning, the Flashes look to be power in the stout conference.


You can’t win in soccer if you don’t score goals, and last year for Kent State’s soccer team, no one was better at finding the back of the net than sophomore Jessacca Gironda.

Scoring nine goals as a freshman last season, Gironda led the team in points by accumulating 20 on the year and is one of the most crucial factors to the Flashes’ success.

Hoping to duplicate her stellar season, Gironda knows she needs to continue to be the most competitive on the field to progress as a soccer player.

“As last season’s points leader, there is perhaps a certain level of responsibility to repeat my performance,” Gironda said. “Given my highly competitive personality, that is probably only natural. I am a very goal-oriented person and have always been hard on myself. However, my main objective has always been, and continues to be, that I perform to the best of my potential and contribute in every way possible to the overall success of the team. The talent and timely contributions of the entire team will help us accomplish our goals this year.”

Every season, the overall goal remains the same for every Kent State team: to win the Mid-American Conference. With strong competition across the board, Gironda will lead by example in order to make the Flashes offense a potent goal-scoring machine.

“[The MAC] is fiercely competitive in that most teams are fairly evenly matched,” Gironda said. “Although our overall record does not reflect it, we lost to the tournament champs [Toledo] by a score of 1-0 in regular season, which shows how talented our team is. We definitely have potential.”

The play of this sophomore forward is a good check of the Flashes’ chances of winning on a nightly basis. When Gironda scored a goal, the team had a record of 4-3-2. Gironda scored a goal in each of the final four games of the season, in which the team went 3-1 against MAC opponents.

“Jess was a very strong player for us last year,” senior goalie Kelly Sherwood said. “I was very impressed with her, and I am looking forward to see her grow as a player here at Kent State.”

Showing skill and poise beyond her years, Gironda scored a game-tying goal in the 89th minute in a match against Pittsburgh.

With seven matches lost by one goal last season, Gironda said she hopes the young Flashes squad can overcome slow starts and execute late in games to show big improvements this year.

“I am hoping that we aspire to perform to a higher level as a team this year,” Gironda said. “We definitely have the potential to accomplish great things.”


Few three-year starters have made a bigger impact for Kent State sports than senior goalie Kelly Sherwood. Only one other player in Kent State women’s soccer history has more career shutouts than her eight. Her 196 saves is fourth-best in school history, but the biggest number for Sherwood is one – one more season to make her mark on a soccer program on the brink of a breakout year.

“I am really excited for this upcoming season,” Sherwood said. “With the talent we are bringing in with the freshman class and our transfer from Clemson (Jackie Dutton), plus all of the returners we have, things are looking up, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to play my last season at Kent State with these 22 girls.”

Sherwood posted a 4-9-4 record this past season as a junior with a 1.68 goals-against average in 17 games started, a down year after an impressive sophomore campaign in 2009 in which she played every minute of every game for the team and posted a 8-9-2 record.

For Sherwood, her success is based on how she reacts to a play and how much she can rely on her defenders to do their job, but like any goalie, her biggest hurdle during a game is penalty kicks.

An avid soccer fan, Sherwood closely followed Hope Solo and the U.S. women’s soccer team coming so close to glory in the FIFA World Cup this summer. She said she hopes she and her teammates can learn a thing or two from the U.S. team in the amount of heart they show on the soccer field.

“I really enjoyed watching the Women’s World Cup, but was a little disappointed with the outcome,” Sherwood said. “I am hoping that our team can show as much heart and fight as the United States national team did this season.”

Aside from their efforts on the field, Sherwood said she knows no team is perfect, this team included.

“The main thing our team needs to focus on this season is communication and staying connected,” Sherwood said. “The more we play as a team, the more successful we will be.”

In the highly competitive Mid-American Conference, the Flashes know they have a constant player in Sherwood. Last season, she accounted for more than 1,600 minutes and was crucial with 73 saves.

Only two other players even took the space in front of the goal other than Sherwood, and combined they only accumulated 116 minutes of playing time.

“Kelly Sherwood epitomizes the strength and success of this season’s team,” Gironda said. “She is truly an inspirational leader and respected by all teammates. She is a motivational player, not just in the goal but in every aspect of her life. She is a phenomenal athlete and a dynamic force in the net.”

The physical education major has her work cut out for her this year with home matches against MAC opponents Western Michigan on Oct. 7, Northern Illinois on Oct. 9 and then rival Akron on Oct. 21 and Ohio two days later on Oct. 23

Contact Matt Lofgren at [email protected].