Flashes send off seniors in style

Alex Atkinson

The Kent State soccer team sent its seniors off by making multiple appearances in the record books with its 7-1 win over Buffalo yesterday.

Unlike the team’s previous games, the Flashes converted shots into goals early and often at Zoeller Field in their final game of the season. En route to Kent State’s best offensive performance of the year, the team set a new single-game mark for scoring in the program’s history.

Jessacca Gironda, the Kent State soccer freshman, began the year scoring five goals in seven games.“I thought they played well,” Kent State coach Rob Marinaro said. “We came out with the mentality to put everything out there. We took care of our opportunities and had some great finishes.”

The Flashes controlled the game from the very beginning. Kent State opened the scoring in the seventh minute when the team scored on a corner kick. Senior forward Annie Messer placed a cross to the center of the box, where junior midfielder Vanessa Salerno headed the ball over the goalkeeper for her first goal of the season.

Nine minutes later, Salerno scored again. Buffalo went to clear the ball from its box but kicked the ball right to Salerno. Salerno took her time, setting up for her right foot and blasting a shot into the right corner from 20 yards out.

In the 26th minute, Messer converted on a penalty kick after being taken down from behind on a breakaway. Her kick put Kent State up 3-0.

Minutes later the Flashes struck again.

Senior forward Kelly Heaton ripped a shot from inside the box. The ball deflected off the bottom half of the crossbar and bounced on the goal line. Senior forward Josee’ Charron ran in and knocked the ball in with a diving header for her first goal of her senior season.

Shortly after halftime, the Flashes added their fifth goal of the game. Messer took a free kick that senior midfielder Kellyn Flanagan flicked into the goal box. Freshman forward Jessacca Gironda was there to head the ball into the far post for her ninth goal of the season and her fourth goal in the final four games of the season.

Buffalo broke through Kent State’s defense in the 54th minute and spoiled Flashes’ goalkeeper Kelly Sherwood’s shutout bid. Taylor Thompson dribbled through the defense and scored her second goal of the season from 12 yards out.

Kent State immediately retaliated, scoring two goals in the next two minutes of the game to add to its lead. Salerno notched her first, and Kent State’s third, career hat-trick when she headed in Heaton’s corner kick in the 55th minute. Kent State’s last hat-trick was in 2004.

“It feels cool,” Salerno said. “For all that happened this season, it was something positive at least for the last game.”

A minute later, Flanagan concluded her season by scoring her fourth goal of the year. Messer crossed a ball to sophomore midfielder Sara Henderson, who headed the ball to Flanagan. Flanagan took Henderson’s cross and flicked it over Buffalo’s goalkeeper for Kent State’s seventh and final goal.

The Flashes seven goals were the most in Kent State soccer history. The team’s seven assists tied for second in team history, and its 21 scoring points tied the team’s record of most points in a game.

“I think everybody played extremely well getting the ball forward,” Marinaro said. “We scored some great goals today. Give (Vanessa) credit for scoring three of those. I thought we put her in great opportunities to put those goals in.”

Messer, who had three assists and a goal in her final game, said she was happy to end the season on a positive note.

“After how the season went, I think it’s perfect we ended this way,” Messer said.

Marinaro said he was impressed with how his team finished the season.

“I thought we came out with the mentality of it was our last game, and we had to put everything out there and let everybody know we are a quality program,” Marinaro said.

Salerno said she agreed the game was for the team’s pride, but also added it was for the seniors.

“I think there was a lot to play for,” Salerno said. “Just pride for ourselves and our seniors. It was a little bit more than a soccer game today. From the team, thank you to the seniors.”

You can contact Alex Atkinson at [email protected].