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Miami pursues MAC title

By Bryan Wills, For The Miami Student

Two wins stand in the way of Miami University field hockey's third conference title in the last four years.

No. 2 seed Miami (11-7, 5-1 Mid-American Conference) faces No. 3 Missouri State University (6-11, 3-3 MAC) in the MAC semifinal game Friday. No. 1 Kent State University and No. 4 Ohio University square off Friday morning in the second semifinal game.

The last time the RedHawks faced the Bears was Oct. 2. Freshman Paula Portugal, sophomore Mariona Heras and senior Bea Dechant scored one goal each in MU's 3-0 shutout.

"We won here at home, now we go to a neutral site," head coach Inako Puzo said. "They are playing better. They beat Ohio and Kent State. Our job is to be ready for that match."

After a rough 2-11 start to the season, Missouri State built momentum by knocking off Saint Louis University (1-18), Ohio (8-9, 3-3 MAC) and Kent State (9-8, 5-1 MAC).

"I definitely think they're going to come out with a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm," freshman midfielder Avery Sturm said. "I think we can take them and pull off the win."

It'll be Sturm's first playoff experience

"I think the team is all backing each other up so there is no extra pressure," Sturm said. "Like Bea Dechant, she's always here for me. And so are the rest of the captains."

Dechant has collected 29 points and 11 goals in 18 starts this season.

"I don't think it's a pressure, it's more of an honor to play at a tournament," Dechant said. "Especially this one being my last one ever here, it's all about enjoying the moment."

The 'Hawks see MSU often, and they believe this is an advantage.

"It helps a lot already seeing them," Dechant said. "But the team learned from those games, and they'll probably come out with something new."

The semifinal game begins 2 p.m. Friday in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. The championship game is 2 p.m. Saturday.