MAC preview: soccer

Alex Atkinson

Returning Champion: Central Michigan Chippewas

Only four players graduated from Central Michigan, whose season ended last year after losing in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to No. 5 Notre Dame. Senior goalkeeper Shay Mannino returns after recording 17 shutouts last season, as well as last year’s leading goal scorer Laura Twidle and assist co-leader Valerie Prause.

Top Challenger: Toledo Rockets

Out of its opponents in the MAC, the Rockets appear to have overcome the most difficult non-conference schedule. Toledo has beaten teams like Purdue, Youngstown State and Wright State and has tied teams like Michigan and Minnesota. This team is ready to storm through the MAC and overcome its semifinal exit in the MAC tournament last year.

The Dark Horse: Ball State Cardinals

After going 4-13-1 last year, this team could surprise its MAC opponents. The team is currently 6-2 after beating teams like Xavier, Indiana State, IUPUI, Southeast Missouri, Western Kentucky and Duquesne. The team only graduated one senior last year, so the young team from last year is now experienced and ready to make a mark in the MAC.

Players to Watch: Jess Kodiak (sophomore, Miami)

Opposing coaches will definitely want to keep an eye on this playmaker. The sophomore midfielder/forward not only is tied with Kent State’s Jessacca Gironda for most goals in the MAC with five, but she also leads the MAC in assists with seven assists in nine games. Last season, Kodiak earned All-Freshman honors after tallying three goals and two assists in 20 games.

Where the Flashes Stand:

The Flashes’ opponents in the MAC appear pretty strong. Still, with newcomers like Jessacca Gironda and Morgan Mah already contributing, and veterans like Kellyn Flanagan and Kelly Heaton leading the offense, Kent State brings a deep team to the soccer pitch. The Flashes haven’t advanced beyond the first round of the MAC Tournament since 2006, and they haven’t qualified for postseason since 2007. With any luck, Kent State will buck that trend this season.

Contact Alex Atkinson at [email protected].