CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Behind the first career hat trick from junior striker Ashley Flinn, the Miami Hurricanes cruised to a 6-1 decision over Cleveland State Friday night at Cobb Stadium.
Flinn powered the hosts to their fourth straight victory, recording the most dominant individual performance of her decorated career to date. The Romeo, Mich., native became the first Hurricane to record three goals in a contest since Kate Howarth accomplished the feat in 2009.
“If I can get in behind the defense, I know I can be really effective,” Flinn said after the match. “My teammates were really finding me the ball well and creating space for me to get behind.”
With her third and final tally of the night, Flinn set a new personal mark with five goals this season - besting her 2011 total of four. The performance marked her second multi-goal game of both season and career.
First-year head coach Mary-Frances Monroe said she spoke with Flinn this week in hopes of tweaking small aspects of her game. The immediate returns from those conversations, including a 2-0 lead near halftime thanks to two Flinn tallies, helped Miami extend its longest season-opening winning streak since 2003.
“She wants to learn, wants to eat it up, and anything we say she wants to bring to the field,” Monroe said. “She really trusts what we say, and that showed tonight. She took it upon herself to listen, played a lot quicker, a lot harder, and got three great goals today.”
One of Miami’s few blemishes came in the 43rd minute, when a hand ball in the box from sophomore defender Paige Lombard resulted in a penalty kick. Shea Levi converted on her opportunity, cutting Miami’s two-goal lead in half just before the halftime whistle.
“I was disappointed in the first half that we didn’t come out with energy,” Monroe said. “We talked about it in the locker room, and told them it was up to them to make a difference on the field. They came out right away and showed us why they wear Miami on the front of their jersey.”
Freshman Gracie Lachowecki wasted little time in stepping up to the challenge, recording the first goal of her career on a scramble in the box in the 48th minute. Junior midfielder Erin McGovern was credited with an assist on the tally, after her initial effort in the box was denied.
Just eight minutes later, Flinn put the game out of reach with her third goal on a brilliant solo effort. The junior streaked forward on a counterattack and finished with confidence, slotting the ball past Viking keeper Sarah Wood inside the 18-yard box to make it 4-1.
With 10 minutes left in the game, the Hurricanes tacked on two more goals to extend the rout. A terrific volley from sophomore Ally Andreini on a perfect free kick taken by freshman Gianna Dal Pozzo made it 5-1, while the first goal of freshman Cortney O’Connell’s career wrapped up the scoring.
“It’s awesome, and exactly what we’re going to need all season,” Flinn said. “We’re going to need them to step up. We’re a pretty young team, and we’re going to need more of it.”
The Hurricanes next make the short trip to Boca Raton for a matchup with crosstown foe Florida Atlantic Sunday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.