Several of Miami University's varsity sports teams were hard at work before students began returning to campus. After several weeks of practice and several games played, soccer, volleyball and field hockey look forward to the rest of their seasons. Now, as students start classes, these teams start their runs towards Mid-American Conference play and strive for championships.
Miami's soccer team spent the month of August preparing for the two exhibitions and four non-conference games they have played. The team started their season with interim head coach Hugh Seyfarth after former head coach Bobby Kramig suddenly announced his resignation and retirement on Aug. 4. Seyfarth has coached the team to an 0 wins-4 losses-0 ties record (0-2-0 at home, 0-2-0 away) and stresses professionalism and execution as ways to improve.
Seyfarth expects his players to demonstrate professionalism by being ready to play, reading the game well, understanding how to start on time and by being deliberate.
"Of course, we want to win games and do all that, but I think we have to improve every day we train," Seyfarth said. "Every game we play, we're trying to get better."
Last year, the team ended the season 8-9-2 overall and 5-4-2 in the MAC.
This year, the team opened with a 3-0 loss to St. Louis University on Aug. 18, then the RedHawks didn't allow more than two goals in their following three games. However, 2-0 losses to University of Louisville away and to the University of Miami at home forced the 'Hawks to break their scoring silence in their fourth game - a 2-1 loss against Wright State University at home.
"Sometimes the win or loss doesn't tell the whole story," Seyfarth said. "Especially, in the non-conference story."
The losses don't show the steady improvement of shots by the RedHawks from two in their first game to 14 in their most recent - outshooting Wright State by four. The losses also don't show the 13 freshmen and 13 returning players who are working hard to produce wins.
"It's nice to see at practice how hard everyone's working," co-captain senior midfielder Katie Alexander said. "No one's backing off, everyone's pushing each other to get better and it's really helping our team out as a whole."
Seyfarth echoes Alexander's thoughts and notes that the team has had solid practices and video sessions, undoubtedly important as the team takes on the University of Illinois at home this Sunday Sept. 3 at 1 p.m. looking for their first win.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Miami's volleyball RedHawks have also already opened their season at home and find themselves with a 2-1 record. They look to be consistent and repeat much of their success from last season, though with a new team.
"We're looking to be really consistent and true to ourselves and not trying to be who we were last year but being who we're supposed to be this year," associate head coach Chuck Rey said. "Our focus this year, is championship habits and we're trying to make championship habits over and over and over again."
The team took on Western Kentucky University, Southern Illinois University and Northern Arizona University in the Miami Best Western Sycamore Inn Invitational at Millett Hall on Friday and Saturday. The 'Hawks lost to Western Kentucky 3-1 (22-25, 20-25, 27-25, 19-25), then responded with a 3-0 win (25-22, 25-18, 25-13) against Southern Illinois and a 3-1 win against Northern Arizona (25-17, 22-25, 25-21, 25-22).
The RedHawks have five freshmen and six seniors, this year. Rey attests that the senior class is motivated to maintain the tradition of Miami's successful volleyball program. The seniors and the team's other returning members found success last season by way of playing to advance to the NCAA tournament, where it lost 3-1 to the University of Oregon.
"I'm excited to show the conference and the volleyball community what we're all about," Senior libero Maeve McDonald said. "And to bounce back from last year -- we didn't really finish how we wanted with the MAC tournament."
The RedHawks have a target on their backs and have been favored to win the MAC via a poll by coaches in the conference, though Rey said the team is familiar with the pressure.
McDonald elaborates: "[We're] focusing on what we can focus on and what we can control - serving, passing, all that - and keeping confidence in ourselves and each other."
Moving forward, volleyball will play Xavier University today in Cincinnati at 7 p.m.
Miami's field hockey team is favored to do well in the MAC, picked to place second. The team played two games in Albany, NY winning both this weekend. The RedHawks beat No. 18 University of Albany 2-1 in overtime on Saturday and Siena College 7-0 on Sunday.
A strong start to the season excites the team, as it looks to keep the momentum and energy that was developed in practice and has translated into their game play.
"The team has worked so hard in the past two weeks and in the preseason to have the wins pay off, this weekend, gives us a lot of excitement for the future," senior back Makenna Colby said.
Last season, the team was 12-8 overall and 5-1 in MAC play, losing in the second round of the MAC tournament during postseason play. The team has recently began sacrificing individual drills in practice in favor of working on their game structure. Nine freshmen aim to help the 21 returning players use practice and non-conference games as preparation for conference play.
"Our team is a good mix of very strong upperclassmen with very quick and talented incoming class," head coach Inako Puzo said. "We have nine new players and we've been working to incorporate this in our game structure and philosophy."
Puzo focuses on leadership on and off the field and hopes this manifest itself in growth during the season. He wants his players to be better at the end of the season than at the beginning, and a better team than the year before. The athletes have bought into the mentality and the disciplined environment.
"We shouldn't worry that much about the scoreboard but how we play and our attitude," redshirt senior back/midfielder Mariona Heras said. "Our main goal of the season is to fight and not give up."
Field hockey will fight for a win against the University of Massachusetts-Lowell at home this Friday at 5 p.m.