MT. PLEASANT, Mich. - Playing the fifth-hardest schedule in the country during the non-conference season paid off for the Miami University field hockey team as it opened Mid-American Conference play with a 4-1 victory over Central Michigan on Friday. The RedHawks improve to 3-6 overall and 1-0 in the MAC. The Chippewas fall to 3-5 overall and 0-1 in the MAC.
"The team worked hard for 70 minutes and followed the game plan," said assistant coach Chip Rogers. "It was an entire team effort to support each other all over the field."
Miami would strike first when Olivia Miller put home an unassisted tally in the eighth minute. It would prove to bet the only goal of a defensive first half in which Central Michigan outshot the RedHawks, 5-4. When tested, junior goalkeeper Sarah Mueller was up to the task, making three saves during the period.
Play was much more wide open in the second half. Valentina Neira would quickly make it 2-0 in favor of Miami in the 39th minute when her shot was deflected off a CMU defender and into the net. The Chippewas would earn a couple of penalty corner attempts over the next 10 minutes, but each time they would have their shot attempts blocked. Finally in the 53rd minute, Erin Dye would score to cut the deficit to 2-1.
The RedHawks answered right back three minutes later when Kaitlin Evans redirected Emily Gruesser's shot into the goal to make it 3-1. Central Michigan would go on the attack, but once again Mueller came up big, making four saves, including three in a 20-second stretch. Miami would earn a penalty corner in the 68th minute and put the game away with a conversion. Ali Froede would score her second goal of the season off assists from Miller and Sid Marcum.
The Chippewas outshot the RedHawks, 18-10, for the game. They also had a 10-5 advantage in penalty corners. Miller led Miami with two shots, but it was a balanced attack that saw nine different players attempt shots. Mueller finished with nine saves in goal.
"This was a nice start to the MAC season," said Rogers. "We will take what we learned from this game and get ready for back-to-back games on Sunday and Monday."
The RedHawks return to non-conference action when they host a pair of games. On Sunday, Miami will take on Georgetown at 11 a.m. That game is National Girls and Women in Sports Day, and in celebration the team will host a free clinic at the conclusion of the game. The RedHawks will then face Saint Francis (PA) on Monday at 2 p.m. at the Field Hockey Turf complex.