Red and White kick off conference play against Zips and Bulls
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 22:09
For the second consecutive season the Miami University soccer team opens conference play with only two non-conference losses. Sitting at 6-2, the RedHawks take on the University of Akron (4-3) and the University at Buffalo (2-5-1) in a pair of home games Friday and Sunday.
Despite the team’s success, the challenge for the rest of the regular season is to stay focused.
“Our focus now is to continue getting better at what we do,” Head Coach Bobby Kramig said. “We don’t need to change anything for any specific team at the moment, but we do need to play more consistently now. We need to be better with our shots on goal and get our defensive pressure started earlier. There isn’t a Saturday morning that goes by where a coach doesn’t get on a computer and see a [Mid-American Conference (MAC)] game that went to an underdog. So, we need to be on top of our game at all times, week in and week out.”
Kramig said Miami’s 3-0 victory over the Zips last season was one that shocked a lot of people.
“This conference is incredibly competitive,” Kramig said. “I think our players know that every game will be a fight. I think our result last year at Akron had people see that a game can go either way. Everything in that game went right for us, but I don’t put a lot of stock into that. It’s a new year, and they have a new coach. In these kinds of situations, you don’t know what strategies may have changed, but at the end of the day, it comes down to what we do and our effort.”
Senior captain Jess Kodiak comes into this weekend following a two-goal performance against Indiana State University, a game where the RedHawks quickly overwhelmed the Sycamores, winning 4-0. This marked the fourth time in her collegiate career where Kodiak posted a multi-goal game. Kodiak said the team is in the right state of mind and refocused, knowing the daunting task of competing in conference play.
“As a team, we wanted to get back on track after losing to [Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW)],” Kodiak said. “Losses are only good if you learn from them. I think our focus as a team is in the perfect place heading into conference play. The only thing left to do is execute.”
The Zips have not found their offensive rhythm under new head coach Vernon Croft. The Zips have yet to score 10 goals this season and have been shutout twice.
The Buffalo Bulls have struggled as well. The Bulls have been blanked on the scoreboard three times by a 1-0 score, and have scored only seven goals in the team’s first eight games. Having matched its 2011 shutout total through eight games this season, Miami is poised to surpass that with the weekend slate.
“Our defense has more experience with another year under our belt,” redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg said. “Communication between the whole team has improved a lot, and the freshmen on our back line are a great addition to the team. I think we learned against IPFW not to lay off the defensive pressure. I feel really good about our chances to add to our season shutouts this weekend.”
The RedHawks seem to have found a happy medium between veteran savvy and youthful explosiveness. One particular standout, freshman forward Haley Walter, has four goals this season along with four assists.
Her speed and energy have been critical in the team’s success and will be an integral part of Miami’s efforts during the conference schedule.
A swarming defensive effort with a continuing of its offensive dominance could prove to be the recipe for success in MAC play.
Through eight games, the ’Hawks have scored 23 goals, are ranked 13th nationally, and have only given up six goals. After missing the conference tournament last season, the RedHawks are looking to raise a few eyebrows.
Play kicks off 4 p.m. Friday and continues 1 p.m. Sunday.