The RedHawks should be flying high following a victorious weekend at home. Continuing conference play, Miami hosted Central Michigan on Friday afternoon and battled Eastern Michigan on Sunday. Entering the weekend without a win, and only a single point on the season, the Red and White were desperate to keep their hopes of a MAC Tournament berth alive. Pulling away with 2-1 and 3-2 overtime victories, they saved their season, for the time being.
For much of the first half on Friday, fans were treated to a defensive stalemate. Still without injured sophomore midfielder Olivia Winnett, the RedHawks depended on freshman midfielder Soph Spinell to lead the attack. In the 38th minute, Spinell delivered a cross into the box that found the feet of senior forward Chloe Knue, who calmly tapped the ball into the corner. For the first time of the year, Miami had a lead going into halftime.
Miami’s back line continued its strong play against the Chippewas in the second half, but a solo run and a timely finish from CMU junior forward Madison Costner tied the match in the 86th minute.
“That was a tough pill to swallow, but what our team has gone through prepared them for that,” head coach Hugh Seyfarth said. “We’ve endured so many rough games that we didn’t get anything out of, but we played hard and had that inner drive, inner commitment and inner belief to say, ‘We’re going to win this game.’”
The RedHawks were hardly newcomers to overtime contests, with three of their previous four matches going into an extra period of sudden death play. A foul was given to Miami on the right side of the penalty box with about five minutes left in the first overtime, and the RedHawks capitalized on their opportunity.
Senior midfielder Amy Malone curled a ball into a mess of players in the box, and 5’10” sophomore defender Lydia Brosnahan rose above the crowd and headed it into the net, securing their first victory of the season at 2-1.
“A great ball by Amy,” Seyfarth said, “and Lydia, deservingly so, is the ‘man of the match.’”
Carrying the momentum into Sunday’s match against Eastern Michigan, the RedHawks came out the gate looking confident and committed in the attack. Their path to a second win, however, met an obstacle less than ten minutes in. EMU Redshirt junior midfielder Kristin Nason bodied her way down the left wing and slotted a ball to her freshman teammate Parys Kerr, who gave the Eagles’ a 1-0 lead. Ten minutes later, a lapse in concentration from Miami’s back line led to Eastern Michigan tacking on another goal, and doubling their lead.
Clearly frustrated, and knowing they had gifted their opponents with two avoidable goals, the RedHawks did not lie down but increased the pressure on the Eagles’ back line. Two minutes after conceding their second goal of the afternoon, the RedHawks answered back when Spinell led an attack down the right side, and crossed the ball into senior midfielder Kat Zalar, who finished with a header and cut Eastern Michigan’s lead in half.
Miami poured on the pressure and a second goal seemed to be looming, especially when Seyfarth put in one of the RedHawks’ best spark plug substitutes, junior midfielder Bianca Medancic. Eastern Michigan entered halftime with a 2-1 lead, but the Red and White were prepared to finish the comeback.
The second half was chippy, and head referee Michael Kinder struggled to keep control of the game. There were 17 fouls committed in the second half, 11 by Eastern Michigan and Kinder found himself in hot water a few times, denying multiple impassioned penalty appeals from RedHawks supporters.
With the strong winds at their backs, the RedHawks were spurred on by the inclement weather, which posed an issue for the visiting Eagles. Miami broke through with an equalizer when Spinell took a corner kick and found the head of Brosnahan, who finished easily into the net. It was Brosnahan’s second important goal of the weekend, who has not only been a standout defender for the RedHawks this season, but has emerged as a serious attacking threat on set pieces.
With four minutes left in the match and the game tied at 2-2, junior goalkeeper Pat Koutoulas stepped up to midfield to take a free kick for the RedHawks. Keepers generally are confined to their box, but Koutoulas is a threat to score from a dead ball anywhere within 50 yards. Her shot from distance nearly won Miami the game, but the opposing keeper tipped the ball off the crossbar and out of play.
Going into yet another overtime contest, the RedHawks had done much of the hard work in completing the comeback victory. One goal would grant Miami their second victory, pushing them into 9th place in the MAC. In the second overtime period, senior midfielder Katie Alexander found herself 25 yards from goal with a few yards of space, and blasted a curler into the top right corner. The incredible 3-2 finish sent the crowd into pandemonium.
“Honestly, I turned around and asked, I don’t even know how I got the ball,” Alexander said. “I knew that any time I touched the ball in the area I was going to shoot, and put it on frame.”
The win was massive for the RedHawks, giving them a chance to qualify for the MAC tournament. Coming into the weekend, they had only managed four goals on the season. In their past two matches, they added five to that total.
“I challenged them,” coach Seyfarth said. “I said, ‘We have to play the best half of this season, and the best half of your careers to claw our way back into it. They responded.”
Miami will play on short rest Thursday night, as they travel to face Akron University. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.