OXFORD, Ohio - Behind a balanced attack and strong defense, the Miami University women's soccer team remained unbeaten in Mid-American Conference play with a 2-0 shutout victory over Buffalo Sunday afternoon at Miami Soccer Field. The RedHawks (8-2-0, 2-0-0 MAC) are now riding their second three-game winning streak of the season while they remained unbeaten at home all-time against the Bulls (2-7-1, 0-2-0 MAC), improving to 8-0-1 against Buffalo in Oxford.
Miami nearly scored less than a minute into the game, as sophomore Kelsey Dinges (Smithton, Ill.) fired a blast from close range just 58 seconds into the match, but it was blocked by a Bull defender in front of the goal. The 'Hawks continued to apply pressure, earning four corner kicks in the opening eight minutes, but Miami could not find the back of the net.
In the 25th minute, Miami broke through as freshman Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio) tallied her fifth goal of the year. Senior captain Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.) carried the ball down the left flank and sent a low cross into the box that deflected off the cleat of sliding junior Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio) and right to Walter, who was waiting alone at the back post for the tap-in to put the 'Hawks on top, 1-0. Both Kodiak and Dolesh picked up assists on the play.
The RedHawks took their one goal advantage into halftime while limiting the Bulls to just one shot the entire opening 45 minutes. Miami sent in nine shots in the period, including six on goal, while also earning eight corner kicks without conceding one. Buffalo goalkeeper Ainsley Wheldon kept UB in the match in the first half, making five of her seven total saves in the frame.
"I thought it was a difficult game to play today. I thought the conditions were difficult and I think Buffalo is a hard team to play against," head coach Bobby Kramig said. "They're very disruptive and the game didn't really have a lot of rhythm. I felt like we hung in there, stayed patient, made a couple adjustments at halftime, but for the most part it was just working the problem and I thought our kids did a good job of that."
Miami doubled its lead just over 11 minutes into the second stanza as Dinges found the back of the net in the 57th minute. Her and junior Kayla Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) used a textbook give-and-go play to record the goal. Dinges switched the field with a pass to Zakrzewski on the far side, where Zakrzewski ran past her defender and crossed back across the field. Dinges, meanwhile, cut towards goal after her pass and finished Zakrzewski's cross with a strong header into the corner of the cage for her fifth goal of the season.
The RedHawks had multiple opportunities to add to their 2-0 lead down the stretch, including a laser from Walter that rattled off the crossbar with 20 minutes to play. Dolesh also had a good chance in the closing minutes as she was in alone on a breakaway but Wheldon made a sprawling stop with her hand. Miami did not need the extra goals, however, as redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) had to make just one save the entire match, coming in the second half, to record her third clean sheet of the year. It was the fifth shutout of the season for the RedHawks, who blanked opponents just four times all of last season. Norenberg helped combine for the other two clean sheets.
"Defenders don't score a lot of goals; they kind of hang their hat on the ability to pitch the shutout so to speak. I think our kids take great pride in it," Kramig said. "One of our goals that we have going into every game is getting a shutout. I'm really proud of what our kids in the back have done. We're clearly a better team defensively than we were at this time last year and that's a great credit to our assistant coaches. It's probably the most improved area on our team."
Miami finished with a 17-7 edge in shots, putting nine of the 17 on frame, and a 12-2 advantage in corner kicks. Dolesh and Walter led the 'Hawks with three shots each while nine different RedHawks took at least one shot, with seven putting at least one shot on goal.
"You have to win the home games in the MAC. We got that done this weekend and I'm pleased with that," Kramig said. "Next weekend presents a whole other set of challenges with two teams that are a bit better than the two we played this weekend and playing on the road is tough. We took the points that were available this weekend and we'll do our best next week."
The RedHawks look to extend their three-game win streak and remain unbeaten in MAC play next weekend when they hit the road for the first time in league play, facing rival Ohio on Friday, Sept. 28 before heading north to battle Kent State Sunday, Sept. 30.