Kent State Spoils Ohio’s Final Game, 3-2

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Allowing early goals to the opposition has been the norm during the Bobcats’ five-game losing streak and that trend did not end in the season finale against Kent State. And despite a strong response by Ohio, the Golden Flashes used a late goal in overtime to win, 3-2, over the Bobcats on Thursday, ending Ohio’s season at Chessa Field.

With less than 30 seconds left in the first overtime period, the ball rolled across the end line for a Kent (10-6-3, 5-4-2 in Mid-American Conference) corner. And when the ball was swung in, junior Madison Helterbran was there to poke the ball into the back of the net to cement themselves as a guarantee into the MAC Tournament.

Ohio (6-13-0, 3-8), however, came into the contest already knowing that it would not make the postseason and with its last game on the line, the only thing the team had to play for was pride.

And they definitely earned that after battling back from a goal deficit, taking the lead, and using solid attacking play to remain in the game for long periods of time, despite not getting the result they wanted.

“We battled, and we fought. But it’s always disappointing to go out on a loss,” Ohio coach Aaron Rodgers said. “But we fought until the end, we just didn’t have quite enough in the tank to go and get a goal for ourselves.”

And while the Bobcats did struggle to get a goal in the second half before the interval, it appeared that Ohio was going to cruise through the game.

After conceding, yet another, early goal in the 13th minute, the Bobcats once again found themselves on the back foot. But unlike recent games where the team seemed to be lackluster in possession and unwilling to go forward after conceding, the deficit seemed to inject some energy into the Ohio offense.

The midfielders and forwards started passing the ball swiftly in-between each other, exchanging dangerous passes and making darting runs into the box. And one of those runs is what allowed Ohio to take the lead in the 38th minute.

Sometimes it just takes making multiple dangerous runs into the box for your opponents to make a mistake. The tactic typically works well when the back line is unbalanced and will do anything to deny a direct look on goal; and that’s what led to Milesky’s penalty.

A ball was played over the top of the Golden Flashes’ back line, and Milesky ran onto the ball only to be pulled back and down by a Kent defender. The referee pointed to the spot immediately and the sophomore smashed her shot just over the diving goalkeepers hands for the 2-1 lead.

“That’s absolutely what we talked about going into the game,” Rodgers said. “We’re very good when we create rhythm, we are very good when we move off the ball and support each other. And I knew that was going to be key to getting the win today.”

The goal was also Milesky’s team-leading sixth for Ohio and beats her previous season record of four. And while the pressure lasted until the 57th minute, it wasn’t enough to stop the Golden Flashes from finding the equalizer.

Kent sophomore Jenna Hellstrom led a breakaway down Ohio’s right flank before pausing in the box to evade freshman Megan Niebuhr’s tackle and curling a shot just past senior Nicole Amari’s to tie things up.

Although Amari got a hand to it, it wasn’t enough to stop the powerful shot from finding the upper-90. Senior Rachel Fryan also played the first half for Ohio and both goalies did well on their last day as Bobcats, coming off their lines in time of need and making important interceptions to halt the Kent offense.

Another senior who did well on the day was Annie Beard, who played the defensive midfield role nearly perfectly for the first 45 minutes. She recycled possession, cleaned up sloppy passes and tracked back on several occasions to keep Ohio in the game for long periods of time.

“I just really wanted to fight for my team in my last game,” Beard said. “I think my motivation was to just leave everything out there and do what I can to help the team.”

And she did just that by scoring the Bobcats’ opening goal in the 21st minute, via a header off a corner from redshirt sophomore Carly Manso.

“Yeah that was awesome, especially to tie the game back up. So it was a really great feeling,” Beard said.

While it certainly isn’t the result that they wanted, the seniors will have much to look back on positively after this game. Many of them, including Tonya Frasik, Erin Feeney and Liz Finley played very well and gave Rodgers almost everything he could have asked of them.

“They’ve given a lot to this program, and I want them to understand that they are going to continue to give back,” Rodgers said. “We have to start creating a legacy. The program and the seniors from each class need to create a legacy. And I think they did.”

As for the seniors’ thoughts on their time at Ohio and the game today, Beard’s statement sums it all up.

“It’s definitely crazy, but I know this program is in good hands with Aaron (Rodgers) and the rest of our coaches on the team,” she said. “And I know they are going to do big stuff in the future, so I’m excited to see what they do.”