Emily Simanskis, The Miami Student
The Miami University field hockey team's season came to an end this weekend in Kent, Ohio after beating Longwood University 3-2 in double overtime Friday in the Mid-American Conference semifinals, only to lose Saturday to the two-time defending champion Kent State 4-0 in the MAC Championship match.
The second-seeded RedHawks finish the year 12-7 overall. Longwood, the third-seeded team, finishes 9-9 overall.
"As a whole I think our season was great," sophomore back Avery Sturm said. "We had great leadership on and off the field from all of our seniors, and I think in so many ways they've affected the team and the program for the better."
The Longwood Lancers started off the semifinal game on Friday quickly with an unassisted goal coming in the sixth minute from sophomore forward Leonie Verstraete.
Fairly quiet play followed with no shots taken or penalty corners awarded. Sophomore forward Paula Portugal managed to convert the RedHawks' enthusiasm and determination into a goal in the 15th minute, tying the score at 1-1.
The teams entered halftime with the Lancers leading the RedHawks 5-3 in shots, though the teams were awarded a penalty corner each.
Within the first 10 minutes of the second half, Miami took a shot and then earned a penalty corner. On the corner, a pass from senior forward Carla Romagosa found junior back Mariona Heras, who buried it in the 44th minute to put the RedHawks ahead 2-1.
The pace of the game sped up with more shots taken by both teams and more chances resulting from penalty corners.
Longwood's tying goal came in the 60th minute from junior defender Lil-Sophie Achterwinter off a pass from junior forward Edel Nyland. The goal was scored off of a penalty corner.
The last 10 minutes of the game were punctuated by two shots apiece for the two teams before the game headed to sudden-death overtime.
The 15-minute overtime period yielded no goals, shots favoring Longwood and an advantage in penalty corners to Longwood. The RedHawks would not be discouraged, however.
Early shots and a couple penalty corners led to back and forth play until the 97th minute. Portugal found herself on a breakaway and found the back of the net to end the game and send the RedHawks to the MAC Championship.
"I just knew I had to score. There were 3 minutes left in overtime, so I knew I had to go in," Portugal said. "It was all I was thinking about -- this is the ball, this is the goal, I have to score it."
"I think that Longwood played a better overtime than us. They had the best opportunities," head coach Inako Puzo said. "They could have won that game, five minutes ago. They had three or four corners in overtime -- they could have put that game away. I'm happy that, in this opportunity, we were a little bit lucky that Longwood didn't put it away."
Shots favored the Lancers, 18-17, but they fell short in their first appearance in the MAC tournament.
Saturday brought the challenge of top-seeded Kent State's speed and effective passing.
In the first half, Miami effectively held off Kent State with seven shots to the Flashes' five. The RedHawks showed their intensity and were playing for the win that they couldn't come up with in last year's championship or this year's regular season.
The second half brought Kent State's persistence, and the Flashes found the back of the net four times to secure the shutout win. Junior midfielder Ines Delpech scored in the 41st minute with junior midfielders Silvia Figa Malgosa and Jessica Nesbitt assisting. Senior forward Krysti Lober scored in the 58th minute with assists, again, from Malgosa and Nesbitt; freshman forward Lalia Richter in the 64th minute; junior forward Shannon Talbot in the 70th.
"I think this weekend was obviously a big battle for us. We had two really hard opponents -- Longwood and Kent State -- and I think we were able to fight all the way until the end for Longwood," Sturm said. "I think we put it all out on the field for Kent State. We just didn't get the outcome we wanted, obviously."
Miami's senior goalkeeper Alysa Xavier made 11 saves while Portugal took three shots.
Portugal ends the season with 18 goals, senior forward Geagy Pritchard with nine and Romagosa ends the season with 12 assists. Various RedHawks throughout the season were named MAC defensive and offensive players of the week -- a testament to the well-rounded of the team.
MU finishes the campaign 12-8 overall and 5-1 in MAC play.
Kent State improves to 14-6 overall and will play American University in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Wednesday. The Flashes went undefeated in conference on their way to their third-straight MAC Tournament title.
The RedHawks now reflect on a successful season while the returning players look forward to next year.
"I think we're just continuing to grow every year," Sturm said. "So next year we'll be able to step up our game even more and work on the things we need to to try and get that championship next year."