MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Miami University freshman Haley Walter scored 30 seconds into double overtime to lift the RedHawks to a 1-0 victory over Central Michigan Friday afternoon at a cold and damp CMU Soccer Complex, clinching Miami at least a share of the 2012 Mid-American Conference regular-season title.
The RedHawks (15-2-0, 9-0-0 MAC) defeated the Chippewas (11-5-1, 7-2-0 MAC) for the first time since 2007 (seven meetings). Miami won in Mt. Pleasant for the first time since 2001 while snapping CMU's 38-game home unbeaten streak dating back exactly four years ago to a loss to Toledo. Miami is still perfect on the road this year at 9-0-0, as well, which is a program record, as is the team's active 10-game win streak.
The 'Hawks remained unbeaten in MAC play, their best start in program history, and now sit six points ahead of CMU. The win clinched Miami the No. 1 seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament while the RedHawks need just one point (win or tie) against Bowling Green Sunday to secure the regular-season crown outright, which is the second regular-season title in program history (2002).
"First I have to give credit to Central Michigan, who is a well-coached and terrifically talented side," head coach Bobby Kramig said. "They tested us like no other team has tested us thus far and I feel very fortunate to have come of this game on top."
The match was tightly contested, as expected in a battle of MAC division leaders, with neither side able to generate many chances early. The Chippewas appeared to score in the seventh minute but it was waved off because CMU was offsides. Miami had chances later in the half, but couldn't score and held a slight, 4-3, edge in shots over the first 45 minutes with CMU goalkeeper Stefanie Turner making a pair of saves.
"I thought we played well in the first half and I was a little disappointed we didn't get a goal or a few more good chances," Kramig said. "The second half, Central put us under tremendous pressure for the first 25 minutes and we were fortunate to come out of that without giving up a goal. However, we settled down and began stringing some passes together to finish the half really well."
The second half saw the match open up a bit with Central Michigan controlling play and putting the RedHawks under pressure. In the 60th minute, sophomore defender Emilee Kaminski (Saline, Mich.) kept CMU off the scoreboard as she cleared a ball off the line while a minute later, Danielle Rotheram hit the post for the Chippewas. Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio) then missed an open net in the 78th minute as she just struck the ball wide.
Stuck in a scoreless deadlock, the contest went to overtime. Redshirt sophomore Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) stopped both shots that came her way in the first extra session while Miami took just one shot as the match went to a second overtime.
With darkness setting in, the RedHawks were finally able to break through. Just 30 seconds into the second overtime, Walter gathered the ball on the right flank and used her speed to get behind the defense for a breakaway. Turner immediately came off her line to meet Walter at the corner of the box but Walter fired her shot before the angle was cut down, slotting it past Turner to earn the win and lock up the MAC title.
"It was just a fantastic effort on the part of our team. I am beyond proud of them right now," Kramig said of the win. "We've worked really hard since the end of last season to put a team culture in place that would allow us to make the most of the talent we have. It's very gratifying to have all that work pay off."
The Chippewas finished with 15-14 shot advantage while both teams earned a pair of corner kicks on the day. Walter and junior Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio) paced Miami with four shots each. Norenberg made six saves to earn her seventh shutout of the season (second straight), which ties for second in school single-season history, while it was her 11th career clean sheet, which ranks her second in school history by herself. Turner totaled five saves on Miami's six shots on goal for CMU.
The RedHawks look to clinch the MAC title outright when they return home to host Bowling Green Sunday at Miami Soccer Field at 1 p.m. By earning the No. 1 seed in the MAC Tournament, Miami would host the semifinals and championship Nov. 2 and 4 as long as the RedHawks win their quarterfinal contest next Sunday.