OXFORD, Ohio - Looking to make history, the Miami University women's soccer team rounds out its 2012 regular-season schedule Thursday hosting Ball State at Miami Soccer Field with kickoff set for 3 p.m. The RedHawks will then host a Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinal game Sunday at 1 p.m. against an opponent yet to be determined.
Having already clinched the MAC regular-season title outright and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament, Miami (16-2-0, 10-0-0 MAC) can become the first team in conference history to win every MAC game during the season with a victory over the Cardinals. The 2009 Central Michigan team is the only squad to go undefeated in MAC play, but the Chippewas had two ties that year in league contests. Miami's only other MAC regular-season championship team was in 2002 when the RedHawks finished 11-1-0 in league play. That team also holds the school record for overall wins with 19.
This year's Miami squad moved up to No. 4 in the latest NSCAA Great Lakes Region Poll, behind only Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan, which are all nationally ranked. CMU is the only other non-Big Ten team in the regional ranking as the Chippewas are No. 7.
The RedHawks extended their program-record 11-game winning streak last weekend with a pair of league wins that locked up the MAC title. Last Friday in a battle of division leaders, Miami topped Central Michigan, 1-0, in double overtime on the road as freshman Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio) scored just 30 seconds into the second extra session. The win was Miami's first over CMU since 2007 while it snapped the Chippewas' 38-game home unbeaten streak, which dated back to 2008.
On Sunday, the RedHawks returned home and struggled early against last-place Bowling Green, falling behind 1-0 five minutes into the second half. Miami made a furious rally in the final 20 minutes however, scoring three goals in 15 minutes to earn a 3-1 victory. Senior Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.) had a hand in all three goals, scoring the first two within three minutes of each other before assisting on the final goal, which was scored by junior Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio), who also had an assist on Kodiak's first goal. Junior Kayla Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) assisted on Kodiak's second goal, which was her 10th helper of the year, breaking the school's single-season record that was last set by Kersta Carlson in 2009. Nine assists were also recorded by Danielle Altiero (2001) and Danielle Berkemeier (1999).
Miami's offense ranks seventh nationally and first in the MAC, averaging 2.72 goals per game as the RedHawks have outscored their opposition, 49-15, this year. Five RedHawks have at least six goals and 21 points on the year with all five ranking in the top six in the MAC in points. Kodiak leads the team with 28 points, which is second in the MAC, while she shares the team lead in goals with sophomore Kelsey Dinges (Smithton, Ill.) as each has scored 10 on the season, which ties for second in the league. Dinges is third in the MAC with 25 points while Zakrzewski and Dolesh are tied for fourth in the conference with 22 points a piece. Dolesh is fourth in the MAC with eight goals while Zakrzewski's school-record 10 assists lead the league and tie for eighth nationally. Walter rounds out the high-scoring quintet with 21 points, which ties for sixth in the MAC, while her seven goals tie for fifth, including a league-best five game-winners.
Defensively, Miami is just as strong with a league-best 0.82 goals-against average, which is 43rd in the country. After helping the 'Hawks pitch their ninth shutout of the year at CMU, sophomore center back Courtney Zanotti (North Royalton, Ohio) was tabbed MAC Defensive Player of the Week for the first time in her career. The nine clean sheets are just one shy of tying the Miami single-season record of 10 set in 2002 while it ties for the most in the MAC this year. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) has started every game in goal and has seven complete shutouts herself, which ties for second in Miami single-season history, one shy of Krista Pace's eight in 2009. She combined for the other two blankings while her 0.84 GAA ranks third in the MAC. Norenberg's .779 save percentage is seventh in the league.
Ball State (8-6-4, 5-3-2 MAC) enters Thursday's match in fifth place in the MAC, having already clinched a MAC Tournament berth, but the Cardinals are fighting to earn the No. 4 seed and a home quarterfinal match Sunday. BSU is coming off a 2-0 loss to Central Michigan last Sunday after the Cardinals beat Bowling Green in double overtime, 1-0, last Friday. Ball State is tied for eighth in the MAC, averaging exactly a goal a game, led by Nicole Pembleton's four goals and nine points. Pavla Benyrova and Amanda Dreyfus share the team lead with three assists each. Defensively, the Cardinals are sixth in the MAC with a 0.98 GAA as Aubrey Buehler has played all but 33 minutes in net this season, compiling a 1.00 GAA and a .759 save percentage with five shutouts.
Miami is 6-8-1 all-time against Ball State, including a loss in Oxford last year to the Cardinals, 2-1. The RedHawks won the two meetings prior to that however. Miami is just 2-4-1 against BSU in Oxford, including an 8-0 win in 2009.
Live stats will be available for Thursday's match on MURedHawks.com and the game will be streamed live on MURedHawks.com via Miami All-Access, as will Sunday's quarterfinal match. Depending on the results of Thursday's games, Miami could face Northern Illinois, Ohio, Buffalo or Western Michigan in the quarterfinals Sunday at Miami Soccer Field. Should the 'Hawks win their quarterfinal match, they would then host the semifinals and championship Nov. 2 and 4 because they are the top seed.