Because of Miami’s postseason aspirations, Sunday’s field hockey win against Ohio didn’t hold as much emotion as a typical senior day.
Miami wants to accomplish a lot more before the season’s over, as it looks to win the Mid-American Conference Championship and qualify for the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
The RedHawks’ eight seniors played their final regular-season home game and won in the most dominant way, beating the Bobcats 5-0. Their play embodied the success they’ve had since arriving in Oxford.
“I think [all the seniors] lead by example,” senior midfielder Paula Portugal said, “which is something that other people have been looking up to.”
The RedHawks and their fans honored Portugal and the rest of the seniors at midfield before the game. Each player was called up with her family before lineups were announced. No one shed a tear. There was still work to do.
Once game time arrived, Miami had another convincing performance, something the seniors have done for the past four years. The seniors were involved in four of its five goals.
First, redshirt senior back/midfielder Mariona Heras started the scoring in the 15th minute from left of the cage.
Senior back/midfielder Avery Sturm assisted on Kenzie Peterson’s goal that put the RedHawks up 3-0.
Portugal got one in right before halftime off an assist by senior midfielder Estel Roig, making it 4-0.
Miami’s final goal came in the 36th minute by junior midfielder Lexi Silver, who was set up by Portugal to cap scoring at 5-0.
With each goal scored, players didn’t consider the weight of senior day. The celebrations were regular and routine. There was still work to do.
That’s not only a summary of the win over Ohio, but a summary of the last four years — winning games and winning seasons. Miami struggled with a 7-12 record the year before this senior class arrived.
Now, the RedHawks boast a 13-6 record and remain undefeated in conference play. Now, the RedHawks are striving for that second straight MAC Tournament Championship.
“I can’t imagine what it feels like for the seniors and anybody else besides the freshmen,” freshman midfielder Kylie Herb said on winning the regular-season MAC Championship. “It feels great for me, I’m ready for many more.”
Learning from the seniors has given Herb the opportunity to win many more.
Already this season, Portugal’s eclipsed her single-season career-high with 22 goals. She’s spent the last four years filling her trophy case and padding her resume with too many awards and achievements to name. She ranks second in Miami history in both goals and points and is sixth in assists.
Heras leads all Miami position players in minutes played and is third in points with 13.
Roig sits fifth on the team in points with 11.
All three players have started and made an impact in every game. The other seniors, back Kendall Hunker, midfielder Sydney Lawrence, goalkeeper Maddie Passarella and back/midfielder Ashley Laskowitz have helped Miami to be 35th in the nation this season.
Even with the positive impact these seniors had on the team, Miami field hockey has equally affected them.
“It changed me as a person for the better,” Passarella said. “I think that throughout the past four years, I have gotten a lot of support from not only the coaching staff but also my teammates. I think this environment has done so much for me personally, and it has been such a great ride.”
But the RedHawks’ ride doesn’t end here. There is still work to do.
Miami looks to win their second straight MAC Championship — the team’s biggest goal — this weekend, with its first game against the winner of Ohio/Ball State on Friday at 11:30 a.m. A victory in that contest would send them to the finals on Saturday at 4 p.m.