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Miami field hockey wins sixth straight Mid-American Conference tournament title

The team celebrates junior striker Reese Wearren's goal that put Miami on the board. The RedHawks never gave up their lead, prevailing 3-1 and making themselves MAC champions.
The team celebrates junior striker Reese Wearren's goal that put Miami on the board. The RedHawks never gave up their lead, prevailing 3-1 and making themselves MAC champions.

On Saturday, Miami University field hockey won its sixth straight Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament title.

It’s an unprecedented reign of dominance for Miami under 13th-year head coach Iñako Puzo. Puzo has won 12 consecutive MAC postseason games, a conference record. He’s won 13 straight MAC titles, counting regular season and tournament championships separately.

Since 2014, Miami hasn’t lost more than one MAC game in a season. This year marks the team’s seven consecutive time winning the MAC regular season title, as well.

“It never gets old,” Puzo said after the game. “Every year it gets more difficult … People should pay more attention to the MAC. I think that we are undervalued as a conference and a sport.”

After a 3-1 victory over Ohio University on Friday in Oxford, the RedHawks played Kent State University (KSU) in the championship game on Saturday. The game was knotted at zero for nearly the entire first half.

With just over a minute remaining in the second quarter, junior striker Reese Wearren found the back of the net for the RedHawks. Miami earned some insurance early in the second half when senior midfielder Paula Peña Martinez spun just after entering the circle and firing a reverse chip shot into the far side of the net. 

Early in the fourth quarter, sophomore midfielder Paula Navarro extended the RedHawk lead with a goal, making the score 3-0. KSU scored in the fourth, but the Golden Flashes never got any closer than a two-score deficit. 

“We have to recognize that we worked so hard for this,” Martinez said after the game. “It doesn’t come free, we worked so hard for this and it paid off.”

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A bumpy road to the championship

Puzo has had many great teams at Miami. When he looks back on this one, he’ll first remember its ability to adapt. In August the RedHawks lost two leaders and two of their best players for the season. 

Graduate-student midfielder Luli Rosso tore her ACL before Miami played a game. In all three seasons Rosso has played at Miami, she’s been named to an All-MAC team. Last year she was a first-teamer. Junior midfielder Kennedy Vinson, who started 35 games in her first two seasons at Miami, went down with a back injury that would keep her out the rest of the year. Puzo said many more players on his team are currently playing through pain.

“We try not to talk about it, the elephant in the room,” Puzo said. “We try to just keep fighting and keep playing and keep adapting. The team has had to adapt to [losing two top players] and a very, very tough schedule with a lot of traveling.”

The first week of the season, Miami went to California and won both games on the west coast. After one weekend at home, the RedHawks traveled to Maryland, then two weeks later to North Carolina. 

What’s next 

With the win, Miami advances to the NCAA tournament for the seventh straight season. On Sunday, the NCAA announced Miami will play the University of California, Berkeley on Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 3 p.m. in the NCAA tournament. If the RedHawks win they'll play the No. 2 seed Northwestern in the quarterfinals. Both games will be played in Evanston, Ill.

Miami beat Berkely in California 2-0 back on Aug. 25, the first game of the year for the RedHawks.

Last season in the NCAA tourney, Miami lost a heartbreaker to Northwestern in a penalty shootout. Claudia Negrete Garcia scored what appeared to be a shootout-extending goal, but it was called back because she hit it with the domed side of her stick.