MILWAUKEE - Freshman Haley Walter tallied the first goals of her young career Sunday in the driving rain, breaking a 2-2 deadlock and sparking the Miami University women's soccer team to a 4-2 comeback victory over Milwaukee at UWM's Engelmann Stadium. The match was the first ever meeting between the RedHawks (3-1-0) and the Panthers (1-2-1), who are receiving votes in the latest NSCAA Division I Poll and are ranked seventh in the Great Lakes Region.
Like it did Friday against Northwestern, Miami took the 1-0 lead early in the first half as senior captain Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.) bent a corner kick directly into the net at the far post in the 13th minute for her fourth goal of the season. The RedHawks looked poised to take their advantage into the break, like Friday as well, but the Panthers found the equalizer with 27 seconds left in the period. Kelsey Holbert played a square ball to Amy Kauffung on the edge of the box, where she took a few dribbles and fired a shot that ricocheted off the far post and into the goal to level the contest at 1-1.
The Panthers held a 4-2 edge in shots over the first 45 minutes and earned three of the four corners awarded in the half. Milwaukee wasted little time grabbing the lead out of halftime, as just 33 seconds into the second stanza, Helen Steinhauser buried a free kick from 23 yards into the corner of the goal for a 2-1 Panther lead.
"It wasn't a good first half, it was an okay first half. We weren't taking the game to them the way we needed to," said head coach Bobby Kramig. "We were a little fortunate on the first goal off the corner but to get a one-goal lead and give it up 30 seconds before halftime, that was tough to swallow. Then we come out and do the same thing again to start the second half. But to rally from that, we played so hard. The last 40 minutes was some of the best soccer I've seen us play in a long time."
Unlike Friday, when Miami fell to the Wildcats, 2-1, after giving up two second-half goals, the 'Hawks responded and pulled even just four minutes later off the foot of sophomore Hailey Pleshakov (Brighton, Mich.). Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio) started the play, sending the ball into the box from the right flank where it bounced around and popped to Pleshakov, who cleaned up for her first collegiate goal.
"It's all about the response. We've got to respond. We're not set up to defend a lead. We're set up to add to a lead. We have to keep attacking. To be able to attack with the confidence we need to, we have to be able to defend because that's where it all starts," a delighted Kramig said of the difference between Sunday's game and the Northwestern match. "To do that up here, on FieldTurf, in the rain, against that team; I'm really impressed with the character we showed today."
The RedHawks were just getting started however, as Walter recorded her first career goal and point in the 65th minute. Walter snuck behind the defense and fired a shot that was saved but led to a corner kick. On the ensuing corner by junior Kayla Zakrzewski (London, Ont.), Walter was able to gather the loose ball in the box and kick it into the goal to put Miami on top, 3-2.
Zakrzewski and Walter hooked up again in the 82nd minute to secure the 4-2 win. Zakrzewski slotted a perfect though ball that split the defense and Walter ran onto the end of it for a breakaway, as she beat UWM goalkeeper Jamie Forbes with a low line drive to the keeper's right.
"We've been working in practice on getting the through balls behind the defense," Walter said of what was working for her. "That was on so we were talking and playing perfect through balls that gave us opportunities in front of goal."
Miami controlled the second half, outshooting the Panthers, 13-7, over the final 45 minutes and finished with a 15-11 edge in shots. Redshirt sophomore Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) totaled three saves to earn her third win of the year while Forbes finished with four saves as the 'Hawks put eight shots on target. Walter had four of the eight shots on goal for Miami and fired seven shot on the day.
Kramig also praised the play of his bench, which included Pleshakov notching her first goal, as well as freshmen Lauren Mathews (Hamilton, Ohio) tightening up the midfield defensively, Morgan Beck (Cincinnati, Ohio) providing Kodiak a breather and helping move the ball up field and Katie Mazurek (Dublin, Ohio) playing strong at center back.
"The win's big for our team because we were coming off a disappointing loss to Northwestern," Walter said. "We showed that, after we went up 1-0 and they caught us again, we can push on and not slow down coming out of the half, but rather pick it up and come out with the win."
The RedHawks have a week off before looking to keep their momentum rolling when they head south to Nashville, Tenn. to take on Belmont on Sunday, Sept. 2 at 3 p.m. ET.