OXFORD, Ohio - Having already locked up a home quarterfinal game in the upcoming Mid-American Conference Tournament, the Miami University women's soccer team can capture the MAC regular-season title this weekend. Friday the RedHawks travel to Central Michigan for a battle of MAC Division leaders with kickoff set for 4:30 p.m. before returning home to host Bowling Green Sunday at 1 p.m. at Miami Soccer Field.
Miami (14-2-0, 8-0-0 MAC), which cannot do worse than the No. 3 seed for the MAC Tournament, sits alone in first place in the MAC entering the weekend as the only undefeated team in the league. The Chippewas lead the West Division and are just three points (one win) behind the RedHawks in the standings. Should Miami beat CMU Friday, it would clinch at least a share of the regular-season title and also secure the No. 1 seed for the MAC Tournament.
The RedHawks are off to their best start in MAC play in program history and are also one of just four teams nationally to have won every game away from home this year with the game at CMU Miami's final road test of the regular season. Miami enters the weekend ranked sixth in the NSCAA Great Lakes Region Poll while the Chippewas are ninth in the regional poll. All other teams in the Great Lakes Region Poll are from the Big Ten.
Miami extended its winning streak to a program-record nine games with a pair of road MAC wins last weekend. On Friday, the RedHawks outlasted Northern Illinois in DeKalb as sophomore Kelsey Dinges (Smithton, Ill.) scored the game-winner with just 4.8 seconds remaining to lift Miami to a 3-2 win. She had two goals in the match and had a hand in all three as NIU rallied from a two-goal deficit to tie the game before Dinges' header sent Miami to victory. On Sunday, the 'Hawks earned a hard-fought, 1-0 victory at Toledo as junior Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio) scored the game's only goal in the 20th minute. Dinges assisted on the score, giving her a six-point weekend, which earned her MAC Offensive Player of the Week. The win over the Rockets was Miami's first at Toledo since 2002 despite facing windy and rainy conditions.
Offensively, Miami is tops in the MAC, averaging 2.81 goals per game, which ranks fifth nationally. The 'Hawks have scored at least four goals in a match seven times this year while Miami boasts five players with at least six goals and 19 points on the year, all of whom rank in the top six in the MAC in both categories. Dinges leads the team and is second in the MAC with 10 goals on the year while she shares the team lead in points with senior Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.) as each have 23 points, which is also second in the league. Kodiak has eight goals and seven assists, both of which are second on the squad. Junior Kayla Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) leads the MAC with nine assists, which ties for eighth nationally and is tied for the school's single-season record. Dolesh has seven goals and 19 points while freshman Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio) also has 19 points, including six goals.
Defensively, the RedHawks are also first in the MAC with a 0.86 goals-against average, allowing just 14 goals all season. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.), who won her first career MAC Defensive Player of the Week this past week after blanking the Rockets, has started every game in net for Miami. She has compiled a 0.89 GAA, which is third in the MAC, while her .759 save percentage is eighth in the league. Norenberg has pitched six complete shutouts, which is second in the MAC and ties for third in Miami single-season history, while also combining for two more as Miami's eight shutouts on the year are two shy of the school record and tied for the most in the MAC. Norenberg has 10 career shutouts, which ties Katie Karlander (2001-02) for second in school history, six back of the record held by Krista Pace (2006-09).
Central Michigan (11-4-1, 7-1-0 MAC) comes into Friday's showdown riding a four-game winning streak of its own with its lone MAC loss coming at the hands of Eastern Michigan on the road Sept. 30. The Chippewas played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country and is 34th in the latest RPI rankings (Miami is 60th). CMU ranks fourth in the MAC, averaging 1.38 goals per game, led by four goals and nine points from Jennifer Gassman while Danielle Rotheram has a team-high three assists and also has nine points. Goalkeeper Stefanie Turner has seen the majority of time in net, starting 13 games while going 8-3-1 with seven shutouts, which is tops in the MAC. Her 0.81 GAA is second in the MAC while her .796 save percentage is fourth.
Miami is just 6-12-2 all-time against Central Michigan, having lost six straight to the Chippewas, during which the RedHawks have scored just one goal. Miami last beat CMU in 2007 in Oxford and hasn't won in Mt. Pleasant since 2001.
Bowling Green (1-14-1, 0-7-1 MAC), who plays at Ball State Friday before traveling to Oxford, is riding a six-game losing streak. The Falcons lone tie in league play came against Kent State Sept. 23 while their lone win was over IUPUI, 2-1, Aug. 26, a team Miami beat, 5-0, earlier in the year. BGSU sits at the bottom of the MAC both offensively, tallying just eight goals all year, and defensively, giving up 2.19 per game. Sidney Huth has a team-best three goals and seven points while Demy Whitaker leads BGSU with two assists. Jenna Underwood and Becca Ison have split time in goal with Underwood's 1.71 GAA and .702 save percentage both tops among the two while she also has the team's lone shutout, however Ison was in net for the win over IUPUI.
The RedHawks are 10-7-1 all-time against Bowling Green with the teams playing to a 1-1 double-overtime draw in Oxford to conclude last year's season. Miami won the two meetings prior to that by a combined 9-3, however.
Live stats will be available for both matches this weekend on MURedHawks.com while Sunday's match will be streamed live on MURedHawks.com via Miami All-Access.
Following this weekend, Miami concludes the regular season by hosting Ball State Thursday, Oct. 25 and will also host a MAC quarterfinal game Sunday, Oct. 28. The top remaining seed in the tournament following the quarterfinals then hosts the semifinals and championship Nov. 2 and 4.