OXFORD, Ohio – Junior Kayla Zakrzewski scored early and the Miami University women’s soccer team rode strong defense the rest of the way to knock off eighth-seeded Ohio, 1-0, Sunday afternoon at Miami Soccer Field in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
The top-seeded RedHawks (17-2-1, 10-0-1 MAC) will now host the remainder of the MAC Tournament next weekend and face fourth-seeded Kent State in Friday's first semifinal. The Bobcats finish their season with an 8-10-1 record, including 3-6-1 in the MAC.
Miami, which extended its unbeaten streak to a school-record 13 games, came out attacking, earning a corner kick less than 30 seconds into the game. The RedHawks continued to put pressure on Ohio and in the sixth minute, Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) notched the game-winner for the match's only goal. Freshman Jess Bronke (Downers Grove, Ill.) sent a long throw-in into the box, where junior Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio) tapped it to Zakrzewski, who buried the ball from 10 yards out for her seventh tally of the year.
Just over a minute later, Miami appeared to score again as Zakrzewski finished a rebound after sophomore Kelsey Dinges (Smithton, Ill.) and senior captain Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.) each had point-blank shots saved by Ohio goalkeeper Mattie Liston but Zakrzewski was called for offsides.
"That's what we've been preaching the last couple of days, to come out and be aggressive. Set the tone and tempo for the game right from the beginning and I think our kids did that," head coach Bobby Kramig said. "I was disappointed that second goal was disallowed, we'll have to look at the video. We just had to keep playing, keep firing. If anything, the defense won the day for us because in soccer you have these bad finishing days so to make a one-goal lead stand up for 80-plus minutes says a lot about our defense."
The RedHawks continued to create scoring opportunities throughout the remainder of the first half and the match, but were unable to solve Liston again. Miami finished with a season-high 30 shots, including tying a season high with 16 shots on goal, but Liston totaled 15 saves to keep the Bobcats within striking distance the entire match. The 'Hawks also finished with a 10-5 edge in corner kicks.
Ohio was limited to just five shots, tying a season low for RedHawk opponents, only two of which landed on target, but redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) was in position to save both, making one stop in each half. The Bobcats' best chance to score came on a long free kick in the 76th minute by Cat Rogers, but Norenberg reached high to snatch the ball before it snuck under the crossbar. The shutout was her eighth of the season, tying Miami's single-season record first set by Krista Pace in 2009. It was Miami's 10th clean sheet of the year, as Norenberg combined for the other two, with the 10 shutouts tying the team single-season record set in 2002.
"The key thing for us was to set the tone, winning every ball in the air and we did," sophomore center back Courtney Zanotti said. "We were always on their back; they didn't have a chance to turn. They didn't even have a chance to get through. All-around, it was team defense. Our energy picked up and that's how we got our goal and that's how we held them to so few shots."
Freshman Katee Wensinger (Stow, Ohio) nearly made it 2-0 with five minutes left in the first half but Liston got her mitts on the line-drive shot enough to slow the ball before an Ohio defender was able to clear the ball off the line. Miami outshot the Bobcats, 14-2, in the opening half, with Liston making seven saves.
In the second stanza, Miami continued to dominate, ending with a 16-3 shot advantage over the final 45 minutes, but Liston made another eight saves, while the 'Hawks also earned six corner kicks in the frame. Zakrzewski hit crossbar with 23 minutes to play and her header rebound attempt sailed high. Later, the Bobcat defense again had to clear the ball with it trickling toward goal after Liston got just enough of her gloves on a hard strike to slow the attempt.
Ohio was unable to threaten again after Rogers' free kick as Miami knocked off its rival for the fifth straight time, including second time this year, and improved to 3-0 all-time against the Bobcats in the MAC Tournament. The RedHawks beat Ohio, 1-0, in Athens back on Sept. 28.
"I thought it was a tremendous effort by our kids. I'm pleased with the level of energy and enthusiasm they brought to the game, the commitment they brought to the game," Kramig said. "It was a little disappointing not to get the second goal, but that's soccer. It was only 1-0 nothing but I thought it was pretty convincing."
Dinges led Miami with seven shots, including five on goal, while Zakrzewski took six shots, putting three on target.
The RedHawks will battle Kent State at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 2 at Miami Soccer Field while the second semifinal, between second-seeded Central Michigan and sixth-seeded Toledo, will follow at 2 p.m. The MAC championship game is set for 1 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 4, also at Miami Soccer Field. Tickets are $5 for adults and $3 for children 18 and under while students of all MAC institutions get in free with a student ID.