OXFORD, Ohio - The Miami University field hockey team looks to capitalize on last weekend's big wins as head coach Iñako Puzo visits his former stomping grounds as Miami (2-4) takes on ninth-ranked Virginia on Saturday at 11 a.m. and William & Mary on Sunday at 12 p.m.
The Red and White are coming off their best weekend of the season, beating Longwood, 6-4, in Oxford last weekend before traveling to Columbus and defeating the then 23rd-ranked Buckeyes in a defensive struggle, 2-1.
"It was a great weekend," Puzo said. "We went down very quickly, falling behind by three goals twice, but I believe the team showed a lot of character to come with five unanswered goals and beat Longwood, 6-4. They had to believe it was possible to come back from that deficit."
Emily Gruesser led the Miami this weekend with her two goals against Longwood on Saturday, before adding her third goal in two days against the Ohio State Buckeyes. As a result she was named Mid-American Offensive Player of the Week.
Sarah Mueller made 16 saves in the net over the weekend, making several key stops to earn two wins and MAC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Her play in net really propelled the 'Hawks to victory in the second half of the Longwood game, enabling Miami to come back from a 4-1 deficit to earn Miami's first win of the season. Mueller was stellar in Columbus, as the RedHawks downed the Buckeyes despite being outshot, 25-11.
"I think the biggest thing it did for us was give us a boost in confidence which we might have been lacking in the first couple of games," sophomore goalkeeper Christina Heston said, "I think that's 100 percent what we need to carry into the two big games this weekend."
Miami is going to have to rely on all of their players this weekend, as they face two very difficult challenges in Virginia and William & Mary.
The ninth-ranked Cavaliers are 6-2 on the season. They played at William & Mary last Tuesday and came away with a 2-0 win. Virginia has been led by senior Paige Selenski, who has 11 goals and eight assists on the season. She, along with senior Michelle Vittese, was part of Team USA, which competed at the London Olympics over the summer. Prior to taking the Miami job in 2011, Puzo spent two seasons as the Associate Head Coach of the Cavaliers.
"Going back to Virginia, I am very happy to face my former team on Saturday," said Puzo.
William & Mary is 5-1 on the season. Prior to their first loss of the season against the Cavaliers on Tuesday, the Tribe had shutout Radford, 4-0, the previous Friday. Prior to facing the RedHawks, they will take on 11th-ranked Boston University on Friday. William & Mary is led by senior Christine Johnson, who has five goals and two assists in 2012. The Tribe has been very strong defensive, only allowing five goals in six games this season.
"Sunday's game is not going to be an easy at all," commented Puzo. "William & Mary is playing outstanding hockey, maybe one of the best seasons in the recent history of the program."
Still, the RedHawks are coming off of a huge weekend and the confidence in the locker room is really high. Coach Puzo suggested that the team believes they can beat anybody right now.
"We talked after the Ohio State game, we didn't play our best game against the Buckeyes," Puzo said. "It's good to know that even when you're not playing your best, you can still beat these teams. We have to get that confidence and take (it) to UVA , which is going to be a tough battle."
Miami will begin Mid-American Conference play next weekend when it travels to Mt. Pleasant to take on Central Michigan on Friday, Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. The RedHawks will then head home for a pair of non-conference games. Miami will face Georgetown on Sunday, Sept. 23 at 11 a.m. and Saint Francis (Pa.) on Monday, Sept. 24 at 2 p.m.