By Drew Davis
OXFORD, Ohio – Miami’s second-seeded women’s soccer team scored twice in the first half and added another in the second to cruise to a 3-0 win over Northern Illinois Sunday afternoon at the Miami Soccer Field. The win kept the RedHawks (11-6-3) undefeated at home in Mid-American Conference tournament action all-time with a 12-0 record and secured a spot in the league semifinals next weekend while ending the Huskies’ season with a record of 6-11-3.
“It was a comprehensive result,” head coach Bobby Kramig said. “Good defending and good defending. Three good goals and a shutout. I really feel like we’re playing good soccer at the moment. It’s nice to be continuing in the conference tournament feeling good about the game you’re playing and what you’re doing.”
Sophomore midfielder Haley Walter scored the game-winner in the 30th minute when she raced through the penalty box and tapped in a loose ball off a throw in by sophomore midfielder Jess Bronke. Bronke’s long throw from the left sideline was redirected with a header by senior midfielder Kayla Zakrzewski toward the right post where Walter finished it for the 1-0 Miami lead on her fifth goal of the season.
Just over a minute later the RedHawks struck again when junior forward Kelsey Dinges fired a long, arching shot from 20 yards out into the upper right corner for the 2-0 lead. She took a pass from freshman midfielder Jenna Wiener and found herself in open space and dribbled toward the penalty box before sending it past Northern Illinois goalkeeper Amy Carr to tie senior Katy Dolesh for the team lead in goals with seven.
Miami outshot the Huskies by a 6-0 margin in the first half and did not let up in the second, continuing to attack in the offensive end with six shots to Northern Illinois’s three.
Six minutes into the second half the RedHawks added to their lead on freshman midfielder Rachel Marble’s second goal of the season. Fellow freshman Taylor Jackson sent in a corner kick that curved toward the goal. After a deflection, it hit the crossbar and landed right at the foot of Marble who sent it into the back of the net for the 3-0 Miami lead. Both of Marble’s goals this year have come against Northern Illinois in the last month as she tallied her first in the teams’ first meeting on Oct. 18 in Oxford.
Senior keeper Allison Norenberg increased her school records for shutouts in both a season and career with 10 and 22, respectively, with a two-save performance.
Fifth-year senior Kelly Sullivan came on with 11 minutes to play and fellow senior Ariana Kulinczenko entered with nine minutes to go as the Miami seniors played in their final home game. The senior class of Sullivan, Kulinczenko, Dolesh, Zakrzewski, Norenberg, defender Sam Parrish and forward Sydney Busch closed out their career on the Miami Soccer Field with the win as the remainder of the season will be on the road. Top-seeded Eastern Michigan dealt with Ohio, 3-0, in Ypsilanti to secure home field advantage throughout the remainder of the conference tournament.
“I’m very pleased to send our seniors off with a good result, a good victory,” Kramig said.
Dolesh, the team captain, echoed the positive thoughts about the win in her class’s final home game, but maintained focus on the upcoming weekend.
“It’s hard as a senior, you always think about the last things,” she said. “But you can’t dwell on it, you kind of keep playing every game like you have in the past and not let it affect you.”
The RedHawks will travel to the Eastern Michigan campus to take on Ball State, whom they defeated last week on Oct. 31 by a 3-2 count, in the league semifinals. The Cardinals are coming off a 2-1 win over Central Michigan. The other semifinal match will be between Eastern and Western Michigan. Times for both games are yet to be determined with the winners meeting on Sunday to decide the league tournament champion.