By Justin Woods, For The Miami Student
If the Mid-American Conference soccer season ended today, Miami University would have to settle for silver and the University at Buffalo would claim the title.
The RedHawks (12-2-1, 6-1-1 MAC) get their opportunity to reverse that order noon Sunday when they travel to face the Bulls (10-2-3, 6-0-2 MAC) in upstate New York.
"We have a huge weekend coming up with No. 1 Buffalo," junior defender Lauren Kelly said. "But we are focusing one game at a time, so Akron is first, then Buffalo, then Ball State."
Indeed, the Buffalo match is flanked by meetings with the University of Akron (6-9-1, 2-6 MAC) this weekend and Ball State University (9-4-2, 5-3 MAC) next weekend, but if the 'Hawks can take care of business in those matches, their MAC fate is in their own hands.
But don't expect Miami's disciplined players or head coach Bobby Kramig to start talking about Buffalo until the Akron game is history.
"The focus is the next game," Kramig said. "We've tried to stay focused on ourselves the whole year. We wanna be focused on what we're doing and how we play and not be thinking about this game or that game or the other game."
In addition to being chiefly concerned with Friday's 7 p.m. showdown against Akron at the moment, Kramig is trying his best to keep his players healthy and rested for the closing stretch.
"We're getting down to that point in the season where we're keeping a close eye on the kids' minutes - we gotta make sure they're rested as much as possible," Kramig said. "It's a 20 game season and the MAC is a grind. It's just as important to keep your kids fresh as it is to keep them working hard."
And the players have bought in.
"It's getting late in the season so the coaches keep telling us to take care of our bodies," Kelly said. "I'm making sure to get the rest that I need, so I'm doing good. That's the biggest factor right now."
In a scheduling scenario fit for a Hollywood sports drama, Buffalo's two remaining opponents besides Miami are also Ball State and Akron. The difference is Buffalo hosts those squads, while Miami will face them on the road.
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"Road points in this league are awfully tough to come by," Kramig said. "We've got a really tough [away] stretch coming up, so we've gotta be on our game."
With only three games left in the regular season, the Miami players would be the first to call this weekend 'crunch time.' And if their performances in high-pressure moments during games are any indicator of how they will perform as the season winds down, the RedHawks are in good shape.