NORMAL, Ill. – In a wild, back-and-forth contest, the Miami University women’s soccer team came up just short, falling to Illinois State, 3-2, Friday at Adelaide Street Field in the season opener for both teams. The loss was the RedHawks’ (0-1-0) first in a season opener since 2009 while it was their first ever meeting with the Redbirds (1-0-0).
“I thought it looked very much like a first game for us,” Head Coach Bobby Kramig said. “We did some good things and created two very good goals. We were a bit tentative at times and I thought that hurt us defensively.”
Illinois State, the two-time defending Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champions, controlled play early on, hitting the crossbar less than two minutes in. The Redbirds earned six corner kicks over the first 25 minutes, but Miami’s defense held tough and senior goalkeeper Allison Norenberg made a close-range save to keep the match scoreless.
The RedHawks were able to create a few rushes off counters over the first 25 minutes, but couldn’t hold possession until the 31st minute. Sophomore midfielder Haley Walter carried the ball down the right flank before centering to senior midfielder Katy Dolesh, who turned and fired on goal. ISU keeper Aryn Newsom made the stop but fumbled the ball and fellow senior midfielder Kayla Zakrzewski pounced on the rebound, burying the ball for Miami’s first goal of the year. Dolesh collected the assist.
The lead did not last long, however, as Illinois State pulled level at 1-1 five minutes later. Rachel Tejada passed to Kyla Cross just inside the box. With her back turned to goal and a RedHawk defender behind her, Cross spun and sent a low shot past the outstretched arms of Norenberg just inside the far post.
The Redbirds then grabbed their first lead of the night just before halftime. With only 1:25 remaining in the period, ISU kept the ball in the attacking end until Hannah Leinert booted a shot from the left side of the box that was deflected by the RedHawks, but changed the path of the ball as it snuck past Norenberg, sending Illinois State into the locker room with a 2-1 advantage. Tejada and Rhianna Krutz picked up assists on the score.
Miami came out attacking to start the second half, earning its first two corners of the match in the first four minutes. Newsom was then forced to make a save on Zakrzewski breakaway a minute later. In the 56th minute, the RedHawks knotted up the score at 2-2 on a goal by Dolesh, giving her a three-point night. The captain was able to break free down the right side and sent a blast into the back to the net for her first tally of the year, which came unassisted.
Illinois State continued to pressure right after Miami tied the match, but the RedHawks were able to clear the dangerous balls. Dolesh then had a breakaway but her shot sailed wide. With only 20 minutes remaining, the Redbirds broke the deadlock when Cross scored her second goal of the night. Leinert dribbled up the left side and crossed to Cross in the box, where she put it away for a 3-2 ISU lead.
The ‘Hawks did not go quietly though, as Zakrzewski nearly tied the match again in the 77th minute. She got behind the Redbird defense and was on a breakaway when Newsom charged from her goal and pulled her down just outside the penalty box, earning Newsom a red card and Miami a free kick from a good spot. The RedHawks were unable to score on the free kick, but Illinois State still had to play a player down because of the red card.
Despite having an extra player on the pitch for the final 13 minutes, Miami was unable to find the equalizer, dropping the 3-2 contest. ISU finished with an 18-10 advantage in shots, though both sides only put four on target. The Redbirds also held an 8-2 advantage in corners, including 6-0 in the first stanza.
“Congrats to Illinois State on a strong performance. They are an excellent team and I’m sure will enjoy a lot of success this season,” Kramig said. “I believe this game will prove very beneficial to us in the long run. You don’t learn anything playing bad teams, but I think we’ll learn a lot from this game. We needed a game like this.”
The RedHawks look for their first win of the season Sunday when they travel to Indiana for a match at Valparaiso. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. local. Live stats will be available here.