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Field hockey captures first MAC tournament title

By Kennan Belau
On November 5, 2012

The Miami University field hockey team (12-9, 4-1 Mid-American Conference (MAC)) won its first MAC Tournament Championship in school history defeating Ohio University in the semifinals and Kent State University in the championship game.

With the win, the RedHawks now face NorPac Conference Champion Stanford University in an NCAA Tournament play-in game 1 p.m. Tuesday. The Cardinal defeated Miami 3-0 Sept. 1 in a neutral site game in East Lansing, Mich. Longwood University in Farmville, Va., the site of the NorPac Tournament, will host the game.

The Bobcats controlled play early Friday, recording five shots and three penalty corners in the first 26 minutes. Big saves from junior goalkeeper Sarah Mueller, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, kept the game scoreless, including a diving stick save in the 26th minute. Miami struck first in the 30th minute as junior forward Emily Gruesser scored off a penalty corner. Senior midfielder Olivia Miller, who was named the MAC Player of the Year, recorded the assist for the RedHawks.

Ohio scored as time expired in the first half to even the score at 1.

"Ohio controlled the first half," Head Coach Iñako Puzo said. "We talked at halftime about getting back the momentum."

Ohio scored again 62 seconds into the second half to give the Bobcats a 2-1 lead. Miami remained a goal down until the 53rd minute when Miller found sophomore midfielder Ali Froede for the game-tying goal.

After, both teams recorded only one shot in the final 16 minutes, unable to score as Miami headed to its first overtime of the season.

Aided by the fact that overtime is played 7-on-7 to create more space, the RedHawk offense got several good looks, converting in the 77th minute, the seventh minute of overtime. Miami earned its seventh penalty corner of the game as freshman midfielder Leni Gross found freshman midfielder Bea Dechant, the MAC Freshman of the Year, for the game-winning goal.

The RedHawks outshot the Bobcats 11-10 and held a 7-5 advantage in penalty corners.

Miami had the first scoring chance Saturday against Kent State, as Gross fired a shot that beat sophomore goalkeeper Jahna Jordan but sophomore midfielder Abbie Carrico's save to kept the game scoreless.

The Golden Flashes capitalized in the seventh minute, as sophomore midfielder Hannah Faulkner scored off her own rebound to put Kent State up 1-0. Miami evened the score in the 31st minute when Gross found Miller for a one-timer. Miami earned its second penalty corner of the half in the 44th minute, and the RedHawks capitalized as Froede found Dechant to make the score 2-1.

"When we scored the second goal, they really came for us," Puzo said. "They had urgency and really put us under a lot of pressure."

Over the next 25 minutes, Kent State recorded four penalty corners and eight shots but Mueller made four saves to secure the victory and the championship for Miami.

"The last 15 minutes were really shaky, but we made it," Mueller said.

Kent State outshot the RedHawks 18-12 and had a 6-5 advantage in penalty corners. Dechant was awarded the Tournament Most Valuable Player for her two game-winning goals, and was joined on the All-Tournament team by Mueller, Froede and junior midfielder Jordan Long.

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