RedHawks kickoff MAC home opener
Published: Friday, October 4, 2013
Updated: Friday, October 4, 2013 00:10
After three games on the road, the Miami University soccer team (4-6-0) returns home to take on Ohio University (5-2-2) and Kent State University (6-4-0) this weekend.
Head coach Bobby Kramig said he believes the RedHawks, as the defending Mid-American Conference (MAC) regular season and tournament champions, have a target on their backs.
“One of the things that we’ve had to adjust to and learn is that as the defending MAC champs, we’re going to get everybody’s best shot,” Kramig said. “And that requires an even bigger effort on our part than was required last year to win the league.”
Kramig said the Hawks’ loss to Akron University served as a wake-up call to the players on his team. The Zips’ players celebrated on the field after the game.
“I think that made an impression on some of our kids,” Kramig said. “Beating Miami is now a huge deal. You’re now everybody’s big game; you’re now going to get everyone’s best shot. We have to respond in kind.”
Junior forward Hailey Pleshakov said she believes her teammates know teams are going to come after them.
“Because we have that target on our back, we have to work that much harder for every game and every win,” Pleshakov said.
Miami will surely get rival Ohio University’s best shot. The Bobcats, coming off a 2-1 loss to Central Michigan University, are averaging 1.78 goals per game while surrendering one goal per game. On offense, OU boasts a balanced attack, as its top four scorers are separated by a point each. Their leading scorer is redshirt freshman midfielder Carly Manso, who has eight points and two goals.
Kramig indicated the RedHawks’ yearly matches with the Bobcats mean a little bit more than their other conference games.
“OU in particular is a huge rivalry game,” Kramig said. “It’s not just a conference game, it’s the Battle of the Bricks. Our games against OU have gone to overtime six or seven [times] in [my] career. It’s just always been a battle, and I would expect nothing less this weekend.”
After the match Friday, the RedHawks will rest a day before hosting Kent State Sunday. Miami’s defenders will have their hands full with senior forward Jessacca Gironda, who leads the Golden Flashes with six goals and 15 points. Sophomore goalkeeper Stephanie Senn has also impressed, as she sports a .796 save percentage and has posted three shutouts on the season.
Kramig said he expects both matchups will present unique challenges to the ’Hawks and that nothing less should be expected in conference play.
“They’re MAC games,” Kramig said. “That means they’re just gonna be dogfights. There’s no nice way to put it.”
Junior midfielder Kelsey Dinges’ status for this weekend is unknown as she battles an ankle sprain that she sustained in the game against Marshall University Sept. 22. Kramig said Dinges has tried to battle through the injury, but he wants to give her some rest so her ankle can heal properly. Dinges has started all 10 games for Miami this season.
Pleshakov will be asked to pick up the slack in case Dinges is unable to go this weekend is Hampered by a bad back last season that limited her minutes, Pleshakov is seeing increased playing time and is taking full advantage of it. Kramig said that he is very pleased with Pleshakov’s play this season, particularly in the win at the University at Buffalo.
Pleshakov said her play has improved from last year, especially defensively.