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'Hawks open MAC play

By Bryan Wills, The Miami Student

The Miami University field hockey team faces its first Mid-American Conference opponent of the season Friday. The 'Hawks travel to Farmville, VA for a matchup with Longwood University (1-3).

MU (4-3) holds a 3-0 record versus the Lancers, who have yet to win a game on their home field.

Senior midfielder Bea Dechant, who was named MAC Defensive Player of the week for her five shots and three shots on goal against University of Virginia last weekend, leads the charge into Farmville. She leads the team with 21 shots.

Freshman forward Paula Portugal is another Miami player to watch, as she leads the 'Hawks with 10 points. Portugal has also totaled 17 shots on the season.

On Longwood's side, senior midfielder Hollie MacDonald leads the club with 10 points. MacDonald 36 career points and is coming off her best season, in which she was given All-MAC second team honors and finished second on the team with 12 points.

After their stop in VA, Miami heads to Chapel Hill, N.C. to take on No. 3 University of North Carolina Tar Heels (5-1).

Miami was shutout by the Tar Heels 3-0 on September 21, 2014; it was the first meeting between the two since 2003.

"We don't think about their rank. We just fight," junior goaltender Alysa Xavier said. "Our team has a great bond. We all play for each other."

UNC is the fourth ranked team the 'Hawks have faced this season. Miami has not yet notched a win against a nationally ranked opponent.

"We just have to keep knocking on the door," Xavier said. "We're right there."

Senior forward Casey Di Nardo guides North Carolina with eight points and 20 shots. In the 2014 season, she started all 23 games and scored nine goals. Senior middie Emily Wold leads UNC in goals (6) and points (15). She also has 18 shots on the season.

Meanwhile, Xavier looks to shut down the Tar Heels' leading scorer. Xavier has a 3-3 record this season, totaling 31 saves and a .838 save percentage.

Friday's matchup against Longwood begins at 2 p.m. MU takes on UNC on Sunday at 2 p.m.