Miami University field hockey won its second straight Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship Saturday when it beat Kent State 5-3. The RedHawks completed their perfect 8-0 season against MAC opponents.
Miami played its way to the NCAA tournament in front of its biggest crowd of the year.
"Before the game Inako [Puzo] came into the locker room and told us we need to play like champions and have the grit of a champion today," senior back/midfielder Avery Sturm said.
The 'Hawks played with that grit, scoring the first two goals of the game against the Golden Flashes (8-12, 5-1 MAC) and responding to Kent State's late pushback.
Senior midfielder/forward Paula Portugal scored first in the 13th minute off a deflection from the goalkeeper. The second goal came in the 20th minute when junior forward Kenzie Peterson scored off a rebound.
Kent State responded two minutes before halftime to make it 2-1 through 35 minutes of play. Miami outshot the Golden Flashes 12-2, dominated possession and led 2-1 where it counted.
Kent State picked up the pace after the break, but the RedHawks responded. The teams combined to score three goals in the opening eight minutes of the second half.
Only four minutes in, sophomore midfielder Leonor Berlie gave the 'Hawks breathing room with a rocket of a shot into the top left corner of the net.
The Golden Flashes quickly fired back, scoring two minutes later and keeping the game within one at 3-2.
Junior midfielder Lexi Silver was able to give Miami a two-goal lead in the 43rd minute on a rebound shot to the upper right corner. For the rest of the game, the RedHawks didn't allow the Golden Flashes any closer on the scoreboard.
With 20 minutes left to play, sophomore midfielder/forward Noor Breedijk put the game out of reach off an unassisted goal making it 5-2.
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Though, with three minutes remaining in the game, Kent State snuck in one more goal to make the final score 5-3.
Miami's Avery Sturm, senior back Kendall Hunker, senior midfielder Estel Roig and Breedijk were named to the MAC All-Tournament team. Sturm was then named MAC Tournament MVP.
"It was a great final, but mentally it was very tough for us to play with the pressure of winning the tournament," Miami field hockey coach Inako Puzo said.
Judging by the post-game celebrations laced with cheers, smiles and photos with the MAC Tournament trophy, Puzo and his team are happy with their second straight MAC championship.
But the RedHawks are already looking forward to the NCAA tournament. Miami outplayed Kent State, but only winning by two goals has Puzo concerned about his team playing on the big stage.
"The team has great momentum, and we have to keep building that momentum," Puzo said.
Miami looks to continue building against No. 24 Boston University in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. Miami played the Terriers earlier this season and lost 2-1. In a win-or-go-home scenario, the RedHawks look for revenge tomorrow in Boston at noon.