OXFORD, Ohio - Junior Kayla Zakrzewski had a hand in each of the RedHawks' first three goals as she led the Miami University women's soccer team to a 4-1 win over Akron Friday at Miami Soccer Field in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams. The RedHawks (7-2-0, 1-0-0 MAC) improved to 8-6-2 all-time in conference openers, winning each of the last three, and have also now captured three straight victories over the Zips (4-4-0, 0-1-0 MAC).
Miami scored all four of its goals in an 18-minute stretch in the second half with Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) scoring two of them and assisting on another. Her two goals tied a career high, marking the third time she's done so but first time this season. Her five points in the match were just one shy of her career high. The 'Hawks have now scored at least four goals in five of their nine matches this season.
Despite controlling much of the first half and outshooting Akron, 11-3, in the opening 45 minutes, Miami was unable to dent the scoreboard. The RedHawks had several chances early on, but Zips goalkeeper Alex Luevano-Harden was up to the task each time. Zakrzewski had the best chances of the period with drives in the 14th minute and 28th minute, but each time Luevano-Harden was just able to get her gloves on the ball with diving stops. Junior Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio) then hit the crossbar on a header a minute later but the game went to halftime scoreless as Luevano-Harden made six saves in the half.
"The thing that's really working for us is our depth. I know we're fit, so we can wear some teams down, but I think we wear them down as much as anything with our depth," head coach Bobby Kramig said. "If you're a centerback (for the opponent), you're not getting a break. I think you could say that for a lot of our positions. We have good depth at the back and in midfield when you can take Haley Walter off and put in Katee Wensinger, who's a totally different type of player, but still scores. I'm confident in our fitness but that's a luxury we haven't had in a number of years."
Zakrzewski wasted little time breaking the deadlock in the second half however, as she notched her first goal of the evening 5:04 into the second stanza. Freshman Katee Wensinger (Stow, Ohio) sent a through ball from the midfield that Zakrzewski ran onto and drilled a shot from the left side that Luevano-Harden was able to slow down but the ball still trickled across the goal line before Akron could clear it to put Miami up 1-0.
Just over three minutes later, Zakrzewski returned the favor to Wensinger to double the RedHawks' lead. Zakrzewski sent a perfect cross from along the endline to an open Wensinger at the far post, where she tapped the ball in for her second goal of the season (and her career). Wensinger's three points marked a career high for the newcomer.
Zakrzewski continued to pour it on in the 63rd minute when she tallied her fourth goal of the year and second of the match. Akron's defense turned it over in its own end when an errant pass ended up on the foot of Zakrzewski. She took a few dribbles and blasted a shot from the top of the 18-yard box that landed just inside the far post, upper 90 for a 3-0 Miami lead.
"Kayla set the tone for us in the second half," Kramig said. "The first goal she got, it barely went in but she worked so hard to get it. She fought off the defender and got in behind the defense to get her chance. That's what you have to do. People aren't just going to concede a chance; they're going to fight you for it. Her second goal was certainly hit with an exclamation point behind it."
Following the RedHawks' third goal, the Zips pulled Luevano-Harden, who finished with seven saves, in favor of Klaire Adee in goal. The change didn't slow the RedHawks' outburst however, as Dolesh capped Miami's scoring in the 69th minute with her third goal of the campaign. Sophomore Olivia Evans (Dublin, Ohio) sent in a long pass off a free kick from near midfield that found its way into the box where Dolesh was able to get free and beat Adee with a laser from just a few yards out.
With the game out of reach, the Zips broke up Miami's shutout in the 78th minute when Brooke Carrel sent a long through ball behind the RedHawk defense that connected with Ashley Hughes for a breakaway goal. The shot was one of just two in the half for Akron as Miami closed out the 4-1 victory.
The 'Hawks finished with a 21-5 advantage in shots, including 13-2 in shots on goal. Zakrzewski took a game-high five shots with all five landing on target. Miami also earned eight corner kicks, four in each half, while the Zips totaled just three corners in the contest. Luevano-Harden and Adee combined for nine saves while Norenberg made her only stop in the first half.
"I thought defensively today might have been our best effort of the year," Kramig said. "Akron had some kids that were a bit tricky -- those individual kids that will skin you if you let them, but I felt like we were organized and composed. I never felt like we get out of our shape and that just sets up our offense so well. This is soccer, you've got to be able to defend first."
Miami continues MAC play Sunday when the RedHawks host Buffalo at 1 p.m. at Miami Soccer Field. In addition to the game Sunday, Miami will also be hosting the Pam Porter Memorial Picnic, which will take place during the match next to Miami Soccer Field. The picnic is in memory of Kramig's sister-in-law, who lost her battle with cancer in 2010. A fund was then established and the money from that fund will be used for the picnic, which is for both past and present oncology patients at McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital and their families.