OXFORD, Ohio - Senior Jess Kodiak scored two goals and had a hand in all three to lead the top-seeded Miami University women's soccer team to a hard-fought 3-1 win over fourth-seeded Kent State in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament Friday at Miami Soccer Field.
The host RedHawks (18-2-1, 10-0-1 MAC) advanced to Sunday's MAC championship game with the victory and extended their school-record unbeaten streak to 14 games. Kent State finishes the season 13-5-2 overall after going 7-3-1 in league play. Miami will play No. 2 seed Central Michigan at 1 p.m. for the MAC title as CMU edged Toledo, 1-0, in Friday's second semifinal. Miami beat the Chippewas, 1-0, in double overtime at CMU Oct. 19.
Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.) totaled five points in the match, her third five-point game of the season and one point shy of her career high, as she added an assist to go with her two goals. It was her sixth career multi-goal game, including fourth this season, as she now has a team-best 12 goals on the year and leads Miami with 34 points.
As was the case in Sunday's quarterfinal win over Ohio, the 'Hawks jumped in front quickly as junior Kayla Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) scored just 7:32 into the match to put Miami ahead. Kodiak and freshman Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio) worked the ball up the field using a give-and-go that allowed Walter to send a low cross into the box, where Zakrzewski gathered the ball, turned and fired. Her shot was a laser into the upper corner of the goal from 10 yards out for her eighth tally of the year.
Miami nearly doubled its lead seven minutes later as Kodiak created a counter attack and sent a perfect pass to the feet of junior Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio), who was in alone with the keeper on a breakaway. Dolesh struck the ball hard and past KSU keeper Stephanie Senn but the ball hit the post and bounced out, keeping the RedHawk lead at just one.
Although Miami held a 7-3 edge in shots at halftime and a one-goal advantage, play was relatively even as both sides earned a pair of corner kicks in the first 45 minutes. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) made two of her four saves in the first frame to keep the Golden Flashes off the board.
"I thought it was pretty typical of a MAC semifinal. It was very hard fought, very physical," head coach Bobby Kramig said. "The battle was in the midfield for the 50/50 balls. I didn't think we met that challenge as well as I would've liked us to in the first half, but I was very pleased with how they responded in the second half. They stepped up their game."
The RedHawks picked up the pressure out of the break and were able to double their lead in the 80th minute when Kodiak notched the first of her two goals on the day. Sophomore Kelsey Dinges (Smithton, Ill.) gathered an attempted clear just inside the box and sent a line drive toward goal that Kodiak deflected in front of the net and past Senn to put Miami up, 2-0.
Kent State did not go quietly however, as Brianna Bartolone buried a shot off a corner kick by Jaclyn Dutton in the 88th minute to cut the RedHawk advantage in half. Less than 40 seconds after KSU scored however, Kodiak put the game out of reach as she stole a bad pass from Senn to a KSU defender and was then taken down in the box earning a penalty kick. She drilled the penalty kick, Miami's first of the year, just under the crossbar to seal the 3-1 victory.
Miami finished with a 14-7 edge in shots and a 6-4 advantage on corner kicks. Senn totaled two saves in the match for KSU, both in the second half, while Dinges led Miami with six shots in the game.
Sunday's championship match at Miami Soccer Field will be streamed live through Miami All-Access on MURedHawks.com, while live stats will also be available for the contest. Tickets to Sunday's final are $10 for adults and $7 for children under 18 while students of MAC institutions can get in free with a student ID.
Miami will be making its sixth MAC Tournament championship appearance Sunday, its first since 2009, while the RedHawks last won the MAC Tournament in 2002. The winner of the MAC Tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"I think about that game a lot and kind of regretting not giving a little more effort or anything," Kodiak said of the 2009 championship game, which Miami lost, 1-0, in her freshman year. "So to be back here and have a second chance is something I've been dreaming about and I can't wait for Sunday."