By Drew Davis
OXFORD, Ohio – After wrapping up a 10-6-3 overall regular season campaign with a 7-1-3 record in the Mid-American Conference, Miami Women’s Soccer successfully defended its MAC East Division title from a year ago. The RedHawks enter the league tournament as the No. 2 seed behind overall conference champion Eastern Michigan and will host seventh-seeded Northern Illinois on Sunday in the tournament quarterfinals at 1 p.m. at the Miami Soccer Field.
Miami’s .772 conference winning percentage tied the champion Eagles, whom the RedHawks defeated earlier in the season, 1-0, in double overtime on Oct. 13. Eastern Michigan earned the overall championship and No. 1 seed with an 8-2-1 conference record for 25 points in the standings, just ahead of the Red and White’s 24 points as wins earn three points with ties good for one.
The tight conference race came down to the final day of regular season action as EMU rallied from a one-goal deficit to defeat fourth-seeded Western Michigan, 2-1, on the Broncos home field on Thursday, Oct. 31. With the RedHawks 3-2 win over Ball State the same day, a tie between Eastern and Western Michigan would have given Miami the championship while a Bronco victory would have secured the title for Western Michigan.
Miami will play in the league tournament for the 13th time in school history and will host a match for the 12th time. The RedHawks are 11-0-0 in MAC tournament games at home and have a 5-3-1 record in Oxford this season. This will be the second-straight year Miami has hosted a quarterfinal game after the RedHawks won three games to take the conference tournament title at home last season.
Junior forward Kelsey Dinges leads the RedHawks with 18 points on six goals and six assists and has recorded three goals and two assists over the last six games. Senior midfielders Katy Dolesh and Kayla Zakrzewski are second on the team with 16 points. Dolesh, the leading goal-scorer, has seven on the year with two assists while Zakrzewski is tied for the team-lead with Dinges in assists with six. One other RedHawk, sophomore midfielder Jess Bronke, has also recorded double-digit points with 11 on five goals and an assist.
Senior goalkeeper Allison Norenberg has had a stellar campaign, setting the Miami single-season and career shutout records with nine on the year for a four-year total of 21 whitewashes. This season she has started 18 of the Red and White’s 19 games, going 9-6-3 while stopping 59 shots for a .738 save percentage to go along with a 1.10 goals against average.
In Thursday’s 3-2 win over Ball State, Bronke, Dolesh and freshman forward Katee Wensinger scored for the RedHawks with two assists by freshman midfielder Taylor Jackson and one by Dinges. Meanwhile, Northern Illinois dropped a 2-1 decision on its home field to Toledo to finish the regular season with a 6-10-3 record overall and a 4-5-2 mark in the MAC. Junior Gwen Sabo scored the lone goal for the Huskies.
Northern Illinois is led offensively by sophomore Nicole Gobbo who has six goals for twelve points. The Huskies’ keeper, senior Amy Carr has a 6-9-3 record with three shutouts. Carr has 85 saves on the season with a save percentage of .733 and goals against average of 1.60.
Earlier this season on Oct. 18, Miami defeated Northern Illinois, 2-0, in Oxford. Freshman forward Rachel Marble and Dinges each scored for the RedHawks, who fired 22 total shots in the match to the Huskies three. Carr stopped nine shots on goal for Northern Illinois, which is winless on the road this season with a 0-8-2 record.
Admission to Sunday’s 1 p.m. match between the RedHawks and Huskies is $5 for adults and $3 for youth. Live stats for the game are available here.