OXFORD, Ohio - Making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002, the Miami University women's soccer team will head to Knoxville, Tenn. for its NCAA First Round game as the RedHawks were pitted against No. 19 Tennessee when the NCAA bracket was announced Monday. Miami will battle the Lady Vols on Sunday at 2 p.m. at UT's Regal Soccer Stadium. The team gathered at the Gross Student-Athlete Development Center to watch Monday's NCAA Selection Show.
The RedHawks (19-2-1, 10-0-1 Mid-American Conference) are coming off the program's fourth MAC Tournament championship, which they earned Sunday with a 2-1 win over Central Michigan in Oxford. The victory clinched Miami an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. Miami also won the MAC regular-season title for just the second time in school history (2002), becoming only the second team in MAC history to go unbeaten in league play.
"To see all the hard work over the year pay off in an NCAA Tournament berth, we're very excited and pleased with the draw," head coach Bobby Kramig said. "Tennessee's a great team and they certainly present a great challenge to us, but our kids feel pretty good about what's going on and we're excited to get down there and play."
Miami enters the NCAA Tournament on a school-record 15-game unbeaten streak, going 14-0-1 during that stretch. The RedHawks will be making their fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament, also qualifying in 2000, 2001 and 2002, while Miami won its first-round games in both 2001 and 2002, beating West Virginia and Michigan State, respectively. The RedHawks' 19 wins tie a school record (2002) and also tie for the most in the country this year.
Sunday's NCAA First Round match-up will mark the first ever meeting between Miami and Tennessee in women's soccer. The only SEC team the RedHawks have ever faced is Kentucky, going 0-3-0 against the Wildcats, last playing in 2006. Miami is one of just three teams nationally, however, to win every road game this year as the 'Hawks are 9-0-0 on the road this season.
Tennessee (14-4-3, 9-3-1 SEC) was bounced in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament Oct. 31, as the Lady Vols tied Auburn, 0-0, but were eliminated on penalty kicks. UT finished second in the SEC East Division in the regular season and was third overall in the conference while the Lady Vols closed out the regular season on a four-game winning streak. Tennessee boasts a pair of All-SEC performers in sophomore forward Hannah Wilkinson (first team) and senior defender Ali Hall (second team).
Sunday's match puts Miami's high-powered offense against a tough Tennessee defense. UT ranks 13th nationally on defense with a 0.59 goals-against average while the RedHawks rank 10th nationally on offense, scoring 2.55 goals per game.
The RedHawks feature MAC Offensive Player of the Year, senior Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.), and the MAC Freshman of the Year in Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio). Juniors Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio) and Kayla Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) and sophomore Kelsey Dinges (Smithton, Ill.) all earned First-Team All-MAC honors along with Kodiak while Walter was tabbed to the All-MAC Second Team. All five of them have at least eight goals and 24 points this season.
"I think we need to keep doing what we've been doing all season," said Kodiak, the team captain. "We score goals and our defense keeps getting better and better and more confident. We just need to go out there and keep doing what we do."
Should Miami advance to the NCAA Second Round, the RedHawks would face the winner of third-seeded Duke and Loyola Maryland on Friday, Nov. 16.
For tickets to Sunday's NCAA first-round match, call the Tennessee ticket office at 865-656-1200 or 1-800-322-VOLS.