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OXFORD, Ohio – Miami University field hockey coach Iñako Puzo announced the RedHawks’ 2014 schedule on Monday. The challenging slate features seven home games, as well as contests against some of the top-ranked teams in the country, two of which in North Carolina and Maryland appeared in the Final Four last season and have produced numerous USA Olympians and National Team players.

“As this team grows in hockey, so too must the schedule,” said Puzo. “This schedule affords us the opportunity to continue to develop as a team, preparing for conference play while challenging ourselves against the nation’s elite in our sport.”

The schedule features five teams that reached the NCAA Tournament last season, as well as seven teams that were ranked in the final top 20 poll. Eight of the first 10 games are against teams that were ranked in the top-40 computer rankings at the end of 2013. It begins with one of Miami’s toughest tests of the season, a neutral site game in Columbus against Syracuse out of the ACC on August 30.

The RedHawks open up the home schedule against Northwestern on September 2 at 3:30 p.m. The Wildcats ended last season ranked 17th in the country. After a trip to Ohio State on September 7, Miami travels to Maryland on September 7. The Terrapins ended the 2013 season ranked number one in the final poll and advanced all the way to the NCAA Final Four before being eliminated. They have won the NCAA Tournament eight times in school history. The road trip ends with a game at Virginia, another NCAA Tournament team a season ago, on September 9.

“We have a very challenging schedule (right from the start) against top-ranked teams, said senior back Ali Froede. “I’m excited to see how well our team can perform against such talent, as well as continue to be a top competitor in the MAC.”

Mid-American Conference play begins on September 13 when the RedHawks host new affiliate member Longwood at 11:30 p.m. The Lancers joined the MAC as the Big South does not yet sponsor field hockey. Miami will also host non-conference games against Indiana on September 14 and Appalachian State on September 20 before hitting the road again.

Another tough task awaits the ‘Hawks when they head to Louisville on September 21 for a neutral site game against North Carolina. The six-time NCAA Champion Tar Heels also made the NCAA Final Four last season and were ranked third in the final coaches’ poll.

After trips to New Hampshire (September 26) and Providence (September 28), MAC play gets going in earnest. Miami hosts Ohio on October 4 and Kent State on October 18, while it travels to Central Michigan on October 10, Missouri State on October 24 and Ball State on November 1. During MAC play, the RedHawks will have a pair of final non-conference games, traveling to Iowa on October 12 and hosting UC Davis on October 26.

“Our schedule is providing this team with one of our biggest challenges to date, playing top-ranked teams throughout the season,” said senior back Gabby Goldach. “I am confident that our team is more than up to the challenge and we are excited to show these teams the character of Miami field hockey.”

The top four teams in the MAC regular season standings will advance to the MAC Tournament on November 7-8 in Kent, Ohio. The winner of the MAC Tournament will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Miami won the event in both 2012 and 2013.

“Our schedule gives Miami the opportunity to face some of the top talent in the nation,” said Puzo. “This slate of games gives our players the chance to see hockey at a high level as well as take our game to many different parts of the country, giving our East Coast families, recruits and alumni the chance to share our season with us. I am thankful for the support of our department to help us compete at such a high level.”