KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2002, the Miami University women's soccer team begins NCAA First-Round action Sunday in Knoxville, Tenn. as the RedHawks take on No. 20 Tennessee at the Lady Vols' Regal Soccer Stadium. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.
Miami (19-2-1) earned its NCAA Tournament bid by winning the MAC Tournament last Sunday in Oxford, knocking off Central Michigan, 2-1. The RedHawks, who also won the regular-season MAC title with a 10-0-1 mark, will be making their fourth appearance in program history in the NCAA Tournament, earning a berth three straight years from 2000 to 2002, winning the MAC Tournament each time.
In its previous three trips to the NCAA Tournament, Miami has gone 2-3-0, winning its first-round match in both 2001 and 2002. In 2001, the 'Hawks topped West Virginia, 1-0, before falling to Dayton in the second round, while in 2002, Miami beat Michigan State, 2-1, before being bounced by Michigan in the second round, 4-0.
The RedHawks enter the NCAA Tournament on a school-record 15-game unbeaten streak, going 14-0-1 during that stretch, dating back to Sept. 16. Miami's 19 wins this year tie the school record, first set in 2002 (19-3-2), which was also the only other RedHawk squad to capture the MAC regular-season championship. The 19 wins tie for the most in the country this years, as well. By going 10-0-1 in the MAC this year, Miami became just the second team in MAC history to go unbeaten in league play, joining the 2009 Central Michigan team that went 9-0-2. The RedHawks are also one of just two teams nationally this year to be perfect on the road (with Stanford), as Miami is 9-0-0 away from home this year.
Sunday's match 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. The Lady Vols have never faced a MAC team in their program's history but are 10-8-2 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including 6-2-1 in first-round matches. UT is 9-1-1 when hosting NCAA Tournament games, including 5-1-0 in the first round, with the lone loss coming to Ohio State last year, 3-0.
Tennessee (14-4-3, 9-3-1 SEC), which is making its 10th NCAA Tournament appearance, boasts an RPI of 15 entering the tournament, compared to Miami's RPI of 38. The RedHawks are ranked ahead of UT in the Soccer America Poll, however, as Miami is No. 24 and the Lady Vols are ranked 25th. Tennessee is No. 20 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire Poll while the RedHawks are third among others receiving votes with 18 points, making Miami No. 28 in the NSCAA poll.
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.
Miami boasts the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in senior Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.), who leads the team and is second in the MAC with 12 goals and 35 points while her 11 assists are a school single-season record and tie for seventh nationally. Her 35 points tie for 17th in the country. In addition to Kodiak, Miami had three other players named First-Team All-MAC in juniors Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio) and Kayla Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) and sophomore Kelsey Dinges (Smithton, Ill.). All three first-teamers have at least eight goals, six assists and 24 points while Dinges' 10 goals makes her and Kodiak one of just nine sets of teammates in the NCAA Tournament to both have double-digit goals. MAC Freshman of the Year Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio), a Second-Team All-MAC selection, is second on the squad with 27 points on nine goals and nine assists, including five game-winning goals.
Defensively, the RedHawks are 43rd nationally with a 0.80 goals-against average as Miami has conceded just 18 goals while scoring 56. The RedHawks have pitched 10 shutouts this season, which ties the school record set in 2002. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) has started all 22 games in net, compiling a 0.82 GAA with a .788 save percentage. She has eight shutouts herself, which ties Miami's individual single-season mark, while combining for the other two clean sheets.
Tennessee 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 in their last match. 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, giving them a five-game unbeaten streak currently.
Offensively, UT is tied for 90th nationally, averaging 1.67 goals per game. Sophomore forward Hannah Wilkinson, a First-Team All-SEC selection, leads the Lady Vols with eight goals and 17 points. Senior Kylie Bono has 16 points while junior Caroline Brown has 15 points, including a team-high seven assists.
Leading the tough Tennessee defense is Second-Team All-SEC performer senior defender Ali Hall, who has started all 21 games. Sophomore keeper Julie Eckel has played in all 21 matches, starting 20 of them, while giving up just 12 goals. She has a 0.59 GAA, which is 21st nationally, and an .854 save percentage. She has pitched nine shutouts herself while combining for two more as UT has 11 clean sheets this season, giving up only 13 goals all year.
The winner of the Miami-Tennessee match advances to the NCAA Second Round, where they would face the winner of third-seeded Duke and Loyola Maryland on Friday, Nov. 16.
Live video and live stats for Sunday's match are available on MURedHawks.com. For tickets to Sunday's NCAA first-round match, call the Tennessee ticket office at 865-656-1200 or 1-800-322-VOLS.