OXFORD, Ohio - Four Mid-American Conference women's soccer teams will clash at Miami Soccer Field this weekend with one emerging as MAC champion, as Miami University hosts the MAC Tournament Friday and Sunday.
The top-seeded and host RedHawks battle fourth-seeded Kent State at 11 a.m. on Friday in the first of two semifinals. The second semifinal pits No. 2 seed Central Michigan against No. 6 seed Toledo at 2 p.m. The MAC championship game will then be held on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Miami Soccer Field, regardless of whether Miami advances to the final.
Miami (17-2-1) won the 2012 MAC regular-season title with an unbeaten league mark of 10-0-1, becoming just the second team in MAC history to not lose a league game, earning them the right to host the MAC semifinals and championship. The 2009 Central Michigan squad was the other team to go unbeaten in MAC play, finishing 9-0-2. The RedHawks enter the tournament ranked fourth in the Great Lakes Region, behind three nationally ranked Big Ten teams, while Miami also received one vote in the NSCAA Coaches National Poll, which would put the RedHawks 39th in the country.
Miami, which enters its match against Kent State riding a program-record 13-game unbeaten streak, is making its 12th appearance in the MAC Tournament and ninth semifinal berth after knocking off eighth-seeded Ohio, 1-0, in the quarterfinals last Sunday in Oxford. Junior Kayla Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) scored the game's lone goal in the sixth minute off assists from classmate Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio) and freshman Jess Bronke (Downers Grove, Ill.). The RedHawks dominated the match, however, firing a season-high 30 shots, while limiting the Bobcats to just five.
The 'Hawks have hosted the MAC Tournament just one other time, in 2002, when Miami captured its only other regular-season title in program history and also won its third straight MAC Tournament. The RedHawks have made five MAC championship matches, last doing so in 2009 (a loss to CMU), with their titles coming in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Miami is 16-7-1 all-time in the MAC Tournament with the lone tie coming in the 1999 championship game, which the RedHawks lost on penalty kicks.
Coming into the semifinals, Miami is tied for ninth nationally and first in the MAC on offense, averaging 2.55 goals per game, a half a goal more than any other MAC team. The RedHawks boast five of the top seven point-scorers in the MAC led by senior Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.), who is second in the league with 29 points and tied with sophomore Kelsey Dinges (Smithton, Ill.) for second in the MAC with 10 goals each. Dinges and Zakrzewski are tied for third in the league with 24 points apiece while freshman Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio) and Dolesh are tied for fifth with 23 points. Walter and Dolesh each have eight goals, tying for fourth in the MAC, while Zakrzewski is second in the MAC with a school single-season record 10 assists.
Defensively, the RedHawks are also tops in the conference, allowing just 16 goals all year for a 0.78 goals-against average. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) has pitched eight shutouts this year, tying the school's single-season record, while she combined for two more, giving Miami 10 clean sheets this year, which also ties a program single-season record (2002). The 10 shutouts are second in the MAC behind CMU's 11. Norenberg's 0.80 GAA is third in the league while her .787 save percentage is seventh.
Miami downed Kent State, 4-2, in the teams' regular-season meeting Sept. 30 at Kent. The RedHawks and Flashes were tied midway through the second half before Miami tallied two goals from freshman Lauren Kelly (Manhattan, Ill.) and Dolesh to break the 2-2 tie and get the win. Dolesh also had an assist in the contest while Dinges and Kodiak also scored for Miami.
The RedHawks are 9-6-1 all-time against Kent State, having won three straight meetings, including this year's contest. The two teams have never met in the MAC Tournament, however. Miami is 3-3 all-time against Central Michigan in the MAC Tournament and 0-2 vs. Toledo in the MAC Tournament.
The Golden Flashes (13-4-2) finished second in the East Division and fourth overall in the MAC with a 7-3-1 league record. KSU is making its 10th appearance in the MAC Tournament and fourth semifinal appearance after knocking off fifth-seeded Ball State, 4-0, in Kent in Sunday's quarterfinal. Kent State has made just one championship game in 2005, but lost on penalty kicks. KSU has won seven of its last eight matches, allowing just four goals in those games. Jaclyn Dutton leads Kent State offensively with a MAC-best 35 points and 15 goals as the Flashes are just behind Miami averaging 2.05 goals per game. Dutton also has a team-high six assists while Stephanie Haugh has added 10 goals, as well. KSU is also second defensively, with a 0.81 GAA behind only the RedHawks. Goalkeeper Stephanie Senn has played in all 19 games and is second in the MAC with a 0.73 GAA and fourth with a .808 save percentage. She has eight shutouts on the year.
Looking at the second semifinal, Central Michigan (14-5-1) finished second in the MAC and first in the West Division with a 9-2-0 league record. The Chippewas, who are ranked sixth in the Great Lakes Region, are in their 13th MAC Tournament and 10th semifinal, the most of any MAC team, after topping No. 7 seed Northern Illinois, 2-0, in last Sunday's quarterfinal. The Chippewas have won two MAC Tournament titles in four championship game appearances, winning back-to-back in 2009 and 2010. Since falling to Miami in double-overtime Oct. 19, CMU has won three straight matches by a combined 8-0.
The Chippewas' opponent Friday, Toledo, got past third-seeded Eastern Michigan in the quarterfinals after playing the Eagles to a 1-1 double-overtime draw and winning on penalty kicks, 2-1. The Rockets (7-11-2) finished fourth in the West Division and sixth overall with a 5-5-1 league mark. Despite making it to the MAC Semifinals, Toledo has just one win in its last five matches, going 1-3-1. The Rockets do have more MAC titles than any other school however, winning four in five title game appearances, including winning last year's MAC Tournament. Toledo is in its 10th MAC Tournament overall and seventh semifinal berth.
Both semifinals Friday and the championship match on Sunday will be streamed live through Miami All-Access on MURedHawks.com. Live stats will be available for all three matches on MURedHawks.com and MAC-Sports.com as well.
Admission to the MAC Women's Soccer Tournament is $10 for adults and $7 for youth under 18, which includes both semifinals Friday. Tickets are the same price for Sunday's championship match. Students from a MAC institution can get in to all matches free with a school ID. On Friday, fans can ask for a wristband that will entitle them to also attend the MAC Field Hockey Tournament that will be going on at the same time just a short walk away for no additional charge.
The winner of the MAC Tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Women's Soccer Tournament with the selection show scheduled for Monday, Nov. 5 at 4:30 p.m.