By Justin Woods, For The Miami Student
If the Mid-American Conference women's soccer preseason poll came out today, it would be hard to bet against Miami University taking the title.
Miami is off to a red hot 6-1 start and has vaulted into the national picture as the No. 21 team in college soccer according to the NCAA RPI rankings. Victories over top-70 teams Purdue, Louisville and Illinois State have buoyed Miami well above its MAC competitors. The second-highest MAC team in the RPI is University at Buffalo at No. 77.
When the conference's preseason poll was released last month, the 'Hawks were voted No. 2 in the MAC East Division behind Kent State University. Western Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University were favorites in the West Division. As it stands now in the RPI rankings, Kent State sits at No. 193, WMU at No. 136 and EMU at No. 81.
Miami head coach Bobby Kramig has reiterated throughout the non-conference season his team's main focus is the MAC. Even though the 'Hawks look capable of claiming a third consecutive East Division title, he is not about to take anything for granted.
"I think the MAC is going to be very, very competitive," Kramig said. "There are some really excellent teams in the conference. Teams that do well in the MAC are teams that show up ready to play day in and day out. It's a marathon - you gotta be good all the time."
Miami will line up against fellow conference heavyweight Eastern Michigan (4-2-1) this Friday, and Kramig knows it will be a test.
"Eastern Michigan is as good as any we'll see all year, better than most," Kramig said.
Last Friday, sophomore goalkeeper Vic Maniaci got the start against Marshall University and limited the Thundering Herd to one goal en route to the 2-1 RedHawk victory. Her plan for MAC success is simple.
"We're pretty excited but we can't let [these wins] get to our heads," Maniaci said. "We just gotta keep going."
Maniaci's solid performance in goal last weekend has put the Miami coaching staff in a predicament. Will senior goalkeeper Danielle Wiseman continue as the starter, will young Maniaci get the nod, or will Miami elect for an alternating goalkeeper by committee approach?
"Certainly D [Wiseman] has been playing very well and Vic is a great player too," Kramig said. "We're gonna have to make a decision on this, and it's not gonna be an easy one."
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
In any scenario, look for the entire roster to be influential during the MAC season.
"We've got a situation on our team right now where everybody out there is prepared to put team first," Kramig said. "We're gonna keep using our bench and our depth and make it work for us."
The RedHawks take on Eastern Michigan 4 p.m. Friday and face Bowling Green State University 1 p.m. Sunday. Both games will be played at Miami Soccer Field.