Soccer shoots to extend winning streak at home

Lance Lysowski

Flashes to host Michigan State

The Kent State soccer team last had a winning streak of four or more games six years ago. In 2003, the team won 10 in a row on its way to becoming regular season Mid-American Conference champions.

This season’s Flashes (4-2) are looking to repeat history with a fourth victory in a row at 4 p.m. today against Michigan State (5-0-1) at the Kent State Soccer Field.

Sophomore defender Vanessa Salerno said she believes extending the streak today against the Spartans would go a long way for the team’s confidence heading into conference play.

“We have been on a three-game winning streak, which has been quite amazing,” Salerno said. “To make it four, our momentum going into the MAC, I think it’s just a huge preparation; it would boost our confidence.”

Salerno, named the MAC player of the week after her game-winning goal against Cal State Northridge last Sunday, is a key part of the Flashes’ stout defense. Kent State’s back line boasts a 0.83 goals against average and two shutouts in the past three games, which the team hopes to carry over against the Spartans.

The Flashes’ strong defensive play will meet its match against a Michigan State high-powered offense that is averaging almost three goals a game. The Spartans are led by senior forward Lauren Hill, whose 18 points (eight goals and two assists) rank fourth in the NCAA.

Kent State coach Rob Marinaro said the team will need to stick to the basics to stop Hill and the Spartan attack.

“I think we need to put a lot of numbers behind the ball and make sure we’re there to support each other,” Marinaro said. “Defending with 11 players and not just the back four.”

So far this season, the Flashes have played a diverse nonconference schedule, which included Pittsburgh and teams as far west as Cal State Northridge. Marinaro said the wide range of opponents has trained the team for what is to come.

“We’ve seen a lot of different qualities and people playing different styles of games, and I think that’s extremely important,” Marinaro said. “So when we get into Mid American Conference play, we’re ready to go.”

Michigan State is undefeated on the season with its lone road game ending in a draw against UC Santa Barbara. Two of the Spartans’ victories have been against Kent State conference rivals, Bowling Green and Central Michigan. Salerno said she believes the team’s performance today could be a measure of how the Flashes will fair against MAC Teams.

“I think if we just keep our defense strong and not let them get as many goals, it will definitely show (how) much better our defense is going to be,” Salerno said.

The Flashes are 0-3 all-time against the Spartans, but Marinaro said the team is ready for the challenge.

“(Michigan State is) a high quality program, highly ranked, and it’s a great test for us at this point in the year to see what we can do and compete hard on the day,” Marinaro said.

Contact sports reporter Lance Lysowski at [email protected]