OXFORD, Ohio - Junior Kayla Zakrzewski set up a pair of goals by freshmen and scored a goal of her own Friday to lead the Miami University women's soccer team to a 3-0 victory over Western Michigan at Miami Soccer Field, extending the RedHawks' win streak to six games.
The win streak is the longest by Miami (11-2-0, 5-0-0 Mid-American Conference) since a six-game win streak in 2010 while the RedHawks remained unbeaten in league play (the only unbeaten team) and are off to their best start in MAC play since 2002 when the 'Hawks started 6-0. Western Michigan fell to 5-6-2 overall and 1-2-2 in MAC play with the loss.
Miami wasted little time jumping in front as freshman Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio) tallied her sixth goal of the year less than seven minutes into the match. Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) set up the score as she dribbled down the left flank before crossing into the box, where Walter gathered the ball and ripped a shot from 15 yards out that froze WMU keeper Michelle Watson and found the back of the net for a 1-0 RedHawk lead.
"What we wanted to do by getting that first goal is to get them to come out and not be as defensive as they were," head coach Bobby Kramig said. "I felt like we were able to expose them out wide. Just look at the game Kayla had. It's no surprise that two of the three goals came from one of the flanks."
Walter nearly scored again a few minutes later as she charged in to clean up a rebound after Watson made a diving save on a Zakrzewski shot, but Walter was unable to get much of her boot on the ball and the WMU defense was able to clear. Watson again kept the deficit at one with 7:30 left in the opening period, as junior Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio) weaved through the Bronco defense and fired a blast from inside the box but Watson got her fingertips on the ball to deflect it wide.
The RedHawks took their one-goal lead into halftime while holding an 8-3 advantage in shots, but Watson's four saves kept the Broncos close. WMU did earn three of the four corner kicks awarded in the half but the Broncos were unable to take advantage of them.
"I was pretty happy with how we started. When the weather changed, we changed the way we were playing," Kramig said, referring to gusts of wind and cold weather that arrived in the first half. "We started playing into the air, which even on a good day, is not our game. We got off track there and talked about it at halftime."
Like in the first half, Miami struck quickly to start the second stanza as the RedHawks doubled their lead in the 56th minute when freshman Morgan Beck (Cincinnati, Ohio) tallied her first career goal just over 10 minutes into the half. Zakrzewski again had the assist as she fought off a Bronco defender to send in her cross from near the endline on the left side, where she found Beck in perfect position just a few yards from goal on the opposite post and Beck buried the ball to make it 2-0.
Zakrzewski then got into the scoring act herself on a counter attack with only 2:54 remaining in the match. Dolesh carried the ball upfield in transition and dribbled around a Bronco defender in the box before slotting a pass toward the far post. Zakrzewski came sliding in from her flank position and connected with her cleat to drill the ball into the goal to complete the 3-0 victory. Zakrzewski finished with a goal and two assists for a four-point match after totaling five points against Akron earlier this season. She now has five goals and a team-high eight assists on the year.
"The thing that I liked about the game is we kept our poise and our composure. It wasn't really a well-played game I didn't think, but not every game is going to be well played," Kramig said. "Some games you just have to work through and I felt like maybe we did that today and that's good. You have to be able to win when you're not on your game."
The RedHawks finished with a 13-8 shot advantage for the match and also were the more physical side, collecting 14 fouls to WMU's five. Miami earned two of its three corner kicks in the second half, as well. Zakrzewski led the 'Hawks with four shots, including three on goal.
Watson totaled four saves for the Broncos, all in the first half, while redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) stopped the only two shots that came her way, both coming in the final 30 seconds of the match. She earned her fifth shutout of the season while Miami now has seven on the year with Norenberg combining for the other two. The RedHawks have now blanked their opponent in three of five MAC matches this year.
Miami looks to extend its win streak to seven on Sunday when the RedHawks welcome Eastern Michigan in a battle of first-place teams. Sunday will also be Senior Day as seniors Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.) and Kelly Sullivan (Wilton, Conn.) will be honored prior to the match. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.