By Justin Woods, For The Miami Student
After a perfect start to the season and a non-conference tournament title to show for it, the Miami University women's soccer team (2-0) looks to build momentum this weekend at Northwestern University (2-1).
Coming off the program's first victory over Purdue in four tries, Miami head coach Bobby Kramig is cautiously optimistic about lining up against another Big Ten opponent.
"I don't think we're lacking in confidence, but playing a Big Ten team will often produce a moment of hesitation," Kramig said.
The Northwestern Wildcats topped the RedHawks 2-1 in their 2012 meeting at Miami Soccer Field. The 'Hawks netted an early goal, but NU answered with two of its own to steal the road victory.
"It was definitely a close game, and we might have had the better of the play," senior midfielder Kelsey Dinges said. "But it's a Big Ten team - you can't back down. You have to play the full 90 minutes."
Kramig hopes veterans like Dinges can take the positives from that tough loss and produce a victory this time around.
"It was an evenly played game," Kramig said. "There was a little bit of that Big Ten hesitation. I hope we've gotten over that."
Northwestern struggled to a 3-14-2 record last year, recording only one victory in Big Ten play. The Wildcats opened 2014 with a loss to Farleigh Dickinson University, but rebounded with an impressive win over No. 15 Marquette University.
"Northwestern is a good team," Kramig said. "It's going to be a tough road trip. We're going to have to be on our game, there's no doubt about it."
The two shutout performances last weekend indicate Miami's defense is as strong as advertised, but the RedHawks have yet to see their offense kick into gear. The 'Hawks have tallied two goals in as many games, one of which was a Purdue own-goal.
"There weren't a lot of clear chances in either game [last weekend]," Kramig said. "But we need to do better in front of goal. We're going to keep working on the finishing."
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Although Miami lost key attackers Katy Dolesh and Kayla Zakrzewski to graduation, 21 of the 36 RedHawk goals last season were scored by returning players. Dinges and juniors Jess Bronke and Haley Walter all collected at least five goals in 2013.
Kramig tells his players the springboard for good attacking is good defending. Miami will put that philosophy to the test Sunday at 5 p.m. in Evanston as it tries to extend a 14-match unbeaten streak.