CLEVELAND – Coming off one of its best seasons in school history, the expectations for the Miami University women’s soccer team in 2013 continue to grow. The RedHawks were chosen as the favorites to win the Mid-American Conference East Division and defend their MAC Tournament title in a preseason poll of the league’s head coaches, the MAC office announced Wednesday.

Miami received 10 of 12 first-place votes to win the East Division, totaling 66 points in the poll, just ahead of Kent State, who was picked second. The Golden Flashes received the remaining two first-place votes in the East Division while racking up 62 points in the poll. Ohio was voted third in the East Division preseason poll with 40 points, while Akron (34), Buffalo (33) and Bowling Green rounded out the East Division poll, respectively.

In the West Division, Toledo was selected as the favorite, garnering four first-place votes while totaling 58 points. Eastern Michigan also picked up four first-place votes but just 52 points total to come in second in the poll. Defending West Division champion Central Michigan came in third in the preseason poll, collecting three first-place votes and 50 points. Ball State garnered the final first-place vote and 40 points total to place fourth, followed by Western Michigan (29) and Northern Illinois (23) in fifth and sixth, respectively.

The RedHawks were the only team to receive multiple votes to win the MAC Tournament, receiving eight of the 12 votes. Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Kent State each picked up one vote to win the conference tournament.

Miami brings back 10 starters and 14 letterwinners from its 2012 Mid-American Conference Regular-Season and Tournament championship team that finished the year with a school and MAC record 20 wins. The RedHawks ended last season with an overall record of 20-3-1, while in league play, Miami became just the second team in conference history to go unbeaten in the regular season, finishing 10-0-1. The RedHawks then went on to upset No. 20 Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in overtime for their third NCAA win in program history, before having their season halted in the second round by No. 15 Duke.

The RedHawks, who are ranked No. 34 nationally in the NSCAA preseason poll, are paced by a quartet of All-MAC performers, led by senior midfielders Katy Dolesh, the team captain, and Kayla Zakrzewski. Both seniors were first-team selections last year after ranking in the top 10 in the MAC in all offensive categories. Junior midfielder Kelsey Dinges was also a First-Team All-MAC recipient last year after having a breakout season, as she is Miami’s top returning goal-scorer after tallying 11 last year. Sophomore midfielder Haley Walter completes the foursome, as the 2012 MAC Freshman of the Year was a second-team selection last season.

Each of the conference's 12 head coaches voted in the poll with a first-place vote worth six points, a second-place vote worth five points and so on down to a sixth-place vote worth one point.

Miami opens the regular season Friday, Aug. 23 at two-time defending Missouri Valley Conference Tournament champion Illinois State, followed by a match at Valparaiso Aug. 25. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. local in Normal, Ill. and 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. local in Valparaiso, Ind. The RedHawks defeated Xavier, 3-0, in their lone exhibition Aug. 17. 

2013 MAC Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)

East Division
1. Miami – 66 (10)

2. Kent State – 62 (2)
3. Ohio – 40
4. Akron – 34
5. Buffalo – 33
6. Bowling Green – 16

West Division
1. Toledo – 58 (4)
2. Eastern Michigan – 52 (4)
3. Central Michigan – 50 (3)
4. Ball State – 40 (1)
5. Western Michigan – 29
6. Northern Illinois – 23

MAC Tournament Champion: Miami 8, Ball State 1, Central Michigan 1, Eastern Michigan 1, Kent State 1.