With five minutes to go in Thursday’s Mid-American Conference semi-final game, the Kent State soccer team was tied 2-2 with Ohio.
Things weren’t looking great for the Flashes.
They were playing shorthanded with 10 players and a substitute goalie after their starting goalie was ejected for tripping a player in the 72nd minute.
Then redshirt senior forward Cameron Shedenhelm drew a foul in the penalty area, setting up a penalty kick for redshirt senior defender Karly Hellstrom.
Hellstrom faked right and then shot into the left corner of the goal before the goalkeeper could react. The Flashes defense did not allow another shot on goal and beat the Bobcats 3-2 to advance to the MAC championship game.
“Words can’t even describe that feeling of putting the ball in the back of the net to advance to the MAC championship finals,” Hellstrom said.
The Flashes will play Bowling Green in the tournament championship game at 1 p.m. Sunday. It will be streamed on ESPN+.
KSU suffered its only conference loss of the season to BG in the regular season, a 3-2 defeat in Kent on Oct. 3.
“The opportunity for a MAC championship is what you play for,” Marinaro said. “We’re honored and really pleased with the opportunity. We’ll look to make the most of it.”
On Thursday, Ohio scored in the first two minutes of the game to take an early lead.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, Shedenhelm took a pass from sophomore defender Dalaney Ranallo and shot it into the right corner of the goal. Ohio’s goalkeeper dove, but the ball bounced over her hands to tie the game.
The goal was Shedenhelm’s 12th of the season, and she leads the MAC in goals and points.
Eight minutes into the second half, Shedenhelm passed the ball to an open Hellstrom down the field. Hellstrom was one-on-one with the goalie and sunk the ball into the open left corner of the goal to take a 2-1 lead.
Fourteen minutes later, Ohio tied the game on a header goal over junior goalkeeper Sarah Melén. Five minutes after the goal, Melén was issued a red card and ejected. The Flashes played with 10 players for the rest of the game.
“It didn’t even really feel like we were playing down because everyone was working so hard,” Hellstrom said. “That’s something that our team has never struggled with all year with our work ethic so honestly it didn’t feel any different. In practice, we have worked on playing down or the other team having extra players so I think it was just one of those things that we knew we had to step up and work that much harder to get the win.”
With five minutes left, Shedenhelm was fouled by Ohio in the penalty area resulting in a penalty kick. Hellstrom scored on the penalty kick to take the lead.
“Cam worked her butt off to get us that penalty kick,” Hellstrom said. “She believed in me and wanted me to take it. Everything kind of goes blank in my head. I just worry about me and the ball and putting the ball in the back of the net for my team.”
The Flashes have had eight conference games decided by one goal this season.
“I’m just so proud of this team and the resilience that they’ve shown all year but especially this evening,” Marinaro said. “Going down to 10 players and still finding a way to draw a penalty and the commitment that they showed. It was just a phenomenal team effort.”
The Flashes are playing in their first MAC championship game since 2016 when they beat Northern Illinois 1-0 before falling to Northwestern in the NCAA tournament.
“It’s an honor for this team,” Marinaro said. “This is what you work for all year, and they’ve continuously put themselves in good positions. Here’s another opportunity for them, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
Cole Oswald is a reporter. Contact him at email@example.com.