NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Fighting windy and rainy conditions and a stingy Belmont team, the Miami University women's soccer team rallied to earn a 2-1 overtime victory Sunday afternoon at Rose Park as sophomore Kelsey Dinges scored the game-winner just three minutes into the extra session. The RedHawks (4-1-0) are now off to their best five-game start since 1999, when Miami started 7-0-0, while the meeting was the first ever between Belmont (3-2-0) and Miami.
The RedHawks came out firing, earning five corner kicks and taking five shots in the first 10 minutes. They had several chances in front of the net, but each time the Bruins were able to clear the ball off the line. The Bruins, who didn't get their first shot until nearly 15 minutes into the contest, took advantage of their defensive fortune and scored the game's first goal in the 20th minute. Cassie Blase sent in a cross and it was settled by Emily Epley at the top of the 18-yard box, where she dished to Lauren Paynter, who ripped a low line drive just inside the right post for a 1-0 Bruin lead.
"They literally set up a human wall in front of the net. We had three corners in the first 10 minutes that dropped and we shot and shot and shot and couldn't put it in," head coach Bobby Kramig said of the early chances. "But we were trying to do difficult things with the ball rather than force it in."
Miami continued to control possession, keeping it in the offensive half of the field for much of the remainder of the period, but the 'Hawks could not find the equalizer. Belmont nearly doubled their lead in the closing minutes of the half but redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) made a sprawling save to smack the ball off the foot of the Bruin player and keep it a one-goal contest at the break. Despite the deficit, the RedHawks held a 9-6 edge in shots over the first 45 minutes while both keepers had two saves.
"We expected this to be a physical, sort of chaotic game going in and certainly the wind contributed to that," Kramig said. "I thought we were a bit tentative in the first half. We were trying to do too many things under difficult conditions. Sometimes you just need to step up and lay in to people. The first order of business in a game like this is to win the ball. We talked about it at halftime and cleaned that up in the second half and it turned the game for us."
Going into the wind in the second stanza, the RedHawks were still able to create chances. Early in the second half, freshman Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio) blistered down the sideline to get to a pass from senior Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.), but Bruin goalkeeper Nicole Berner was able to cut down the angle and stop the shot. Walter took advantage of her next chance as she snuck behind the defense in the 67th minute to finish a through ball from junior Katy Dolesh (Chardon, Ohio) by poking it past a charging Berner, leveling the match at 1-1. It was Walter's third goal of the year, all coming in her last two games.
With less than 15 minutes to play, Miami again picked up the pressure and had back-to-back scoring chances from a pair of juniors. Dolesh had the first opportunity as she had a breakaway and sent a laser on target but Berner made a diving save to her right. On the next chance, Kayla Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) was able to poke the ball past Berner, who was off her line, but Bruin defender Kailee Hawkins hustled to clear the ball before it crossed the goal line, keeping the game in a deadlock.
The skies then opened in the closing minutes and the downpour prevented any other chances as the match went to overtime knotted at 1-1. Miami outshot Belmont, 9-2, in the second half but Berner made five saves in the period to keep the Bruins in the game.
The RedHawks wasted little time closing out the win, however, as Dinges (Smithton, Ill.) tallied her third goal of the year just 2:53 into the first overtime period. Freshman Jess Bronke (Downers Grove, Ill.) picked up one of the assists as she sent a long throw-in into the box that was flicked by Walter to Dinges, who lunged and headed the ball into the net, giving the 'Hawks the 2-1 win. Walter earned her first collegiate helper on the play.
"You could really sense the momentum change in the second half. That's what happens when we assert ourselves defensively on the field," Kramig noted. "The takeaway from this game is when we get in people's faces and defend like this; we can really get it going. Everything we do offensively comes first and foremost from playing good defense. It's the springboard for everything we do."
Miami finished with a 19-8 advantage in shots, including 9-4 in shots on goal, led by four on target from Kodiak. Berner totaled seven saves for the Bruins in defeat while Norenberg stopped three shots. The RedHawks also earned 10 of the 12 corner kicks in the contest.
Miami returns home Friday to host another Ohio Valley Conference foe, as the RedHawks face Austin Peay at 5 p.m. at Miami Soccer Field.