OXFORD, Ohio – After a strong showing in its lone exhibition, the Miami University’s women’s soccer team will face much tougher competition when it opens the 2013 regular season this weekend with matches at Illinois State and Valparaiso. The RedHawks battle Illinois State Friday at 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. local in Normal, Ill. before moving on to Indiana to battle Valparaiso on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. local.

Expectations are high for Miami in 2013, as the RedHawks return 14 letterwinners and 10 starters from their 2012 Mid-American Conference regular-season and tournament championship squad. Miami is coming off a 20-3-1 campaign, with the 20 wins a MAC and school record, as well as a berth in the NCAA Tournament as the ‘Hawks advanced to the second round after upsetting No. 20 Tennessee in the first round.

Miami was picked to repeat as MAC champions in the MAC preseason coaches’ poll released Wednesday and also sits No. 34 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) preseason poll, as Miami is ninth among “others receiving votes” outside the top 25.

Leading the RedHawks in 2013 will be a quartet of All-MAC performers, paced by senior captain and midfielder Katy Dolesh, who has been a First-Team selection each of the last two years. Fellow senior midfielder Kayla Zakrzewski and junior midfielder Kelsey Dinges were also First-Team All-MAC performers last year, while sophomore midfielder Haley Walter, the 2012 MAC Freshman of the Year, was a Second-Team recipient. All four ranked in the top 10 in the MAC in goals, assists and points, as each had at least nine goals, seven assists and 26 points last season. Senior goalkeeper Allison Norenberg also returns in net after starting all 24 matches last year and posting a 1.00 goals-against average.

For a complete season preview of the 2013 RedHawks, click here.

Miami defeated Xavier, 3-0, last Saturday, Aug. 17 in its lone exhibition of the preseason. Dolesh headed in Miami’s first goal off a cross from Dinges, while freshman midfielder Taylor Jackson added a goal and an assist. Sophomore midfielder Katie Mazurek tallied the second score, also off a header, while freshman midfielder Rachel Marble assisted on the third goal off Jackson’s foot. All three goalkeepers saw action, combining for the shutout.

Friday’s match also serves as the season opener for Illinois State, which is coming off its second straight Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship and NCAA Tournament appearance. The Redbirds return eight starters and 12 letterwinners from last year’s squad that finished 13-5-2 overall and second in the MVC regular season standings. ISU is led by two-time MVC Player of the Year Rachel Tejada, who tallied an impressive 18 goals last year as a sophomore, along with 10 assists. Senior forward Kyla Cross added eight goals last season while senior midfielder Anna Stinson chipped in three scores, as both were also named All-MVC. The Redbirds knocked off fellow MAC foe Eastern Michigan, 5-4, in their first exhibition Aug. 14 behind a Stinson hat trick, while also defeating Iowa State, 4-3, in an exhibition Aug. 18.

Valparaiso, which opens the season on Friday against DePaul, is coming off a 10-6-3 campaign, as the Crusaders finished third in the Horizon League. Valpo returns seven starters and 15 letterwinners from last year’s team, led by sophomore forwards Sarrah Ludwig and Jordyn Ryfiak, who each scored three goals as freshmen in 2012. Senior Tara Ellis is the Crusaders’ leading returner in assists after handing out four a season ago. Senior goalkeeper Kristen Manski also is back in net after posting a miniscule 0.54 goals-against average last season. Valpo dropped both of its exhibitions this year, falling at MAC foe Northern Illinois, 4-3, Aug. 16, before being edged by Loyola (Ill.), 1-0, two days later.

Both meetings this weekend will be Miami’s first in program history against Illinois State and Valparaiso.

Live stats will be available for both matches on MURedHawks.com while Friday’s contest with ISU will also have live streaming video for a fee. Following this weekend’s contests, Miami returns to Oxford for its home opener against Belmont on Friday, Aug. 30 at 5 p.m.