Rival Akron first hurdle between Flashes and playoff spot

Alex Atkinson

The Kent State Soccer team plans to win-out the rest of the season, beginning Friday with Akron and Sunday with Ohio University.

Akron, currently 2-5-1 in the Mid American Conference, sits in ninth place in the MAC standings, one spot above Kent State (2-9-4, 1-6-1 MAC). For the Flashes to qualify for the tournament, the team will need to move up to at least eighth place.

Placing is determined by points. The bottom half of the league plays against each other in these last three regular season games. It is crucial for the Flashes to win the remaining three games. Even doing this does not ensure a playoff spot. Most likely, the Flashes will be scoreboard watching and rooting for Ohio to beat Akron Oct. 28th. First, the Flashes have to beat Akron.

“We’re definitely pushing for a playoff spot,” Kent State defensive midfielder Vanessa Salerno said. “So we definitely need wins to accomplish that goal of ours.”

Salerno and Kent State freshman forward Jessacca Gironda said they hope the strong play the team has displayed the last few weekends against Toledo and Central Michigan continues for the team’s remaining games.

Gironda said she felt the team built confidence after its four-goal win Sunday against Ball State.

“I think it finally showed that we can do it,” Gironda, who scored one of the four goals, said. “We have a lot of talent, we just have to play together and work together.”

Salerno said she is confident the team will bring that same play to Friday’s game against Akron.

“We’re pumped,” Salerno said. “We saw how well we could play and we finally got a glimpse of what we’re capable of. I think we’re holding onto that and definitely going to try and bring that into this weekend.”

Kent State coach Rob Marinaro and Salerno both mentioned the atmosphere after Sunday’s win has also improved.

“I think it’s a more positive atmosphere out there,” Salerno said. “Not that we don’t have fun when we’re losing. It’s just a lot more fun. Everyone’s heads are in it. I feel like you have an adrenaline rush that sends you flying and sends the team flying.”

Marinaro said he does not plan to change anything against Kent State’s rival. He said the team will play its style of game this weekend and not worry about its opponents’ scouting reports.

“Last week, we got a scouting report on Ball State and they didn’t do anything that the scouting report said,” Marinaro said. “So at this point, we look to prepare ourselves to the best of our abilities.”

Gironda, who is from Akron and said she looked into playing for the Zips, said this game is different from the rest.

“We need to win this game to keep our MAC tournament hopes alive,” Gironda said. “It is Akron, too, so it’d be even better and it’s on their field. I’m sure they’re going to have quite a few fans, so it makes it even better to go out and get a win.”

Salerno also described what it is like to play Akron.

“I think any team that we’re up against, you’re going to go out and try your best,” Salerno said. “But against Akron, it’s a little deeper than that. I think everyone brings a little more to the table against Akron.”

Action begins Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Akron and 1 p.m. Sunday against Ohio in Athens.

“Winning is all that we have on our minds this weekend,” Salerno said.

Contact Alex Atkinson at [email protected].