The Miami University field hockey team defeated No. 16 Stanford University for their first NCAA tournament win on Wednesday, but fell just short against No. 2 Duke 4-2 on Saturday. While the RedHawks finish the season 12-9, their record doesn’t give the team enough credit for their improvement and grit they showed throughout the season.
On Wednesday, MU traveled to Palo Alto, CA to defeat the Cardinals 2-1. Miami outshot Stanford 13-8 and dominated 8-1 in penalty corners.
“I think it was an impressive performance,” head coach Inako Puzo said. “We played against a great team. We knew it was going to be physical, in good terms, but we’re going to request a lot of good fitness and running if we want to come with the result here and we wanted to compete here on this field.”
Stanford scored first in the 24th minute, but were held scoreless for the remainder of the game by Miami’s defense and two good saves by junior goalkeeper Maddie Passarella.
Junior midfielder/forward Paula Portugal scored her 19th goal of the season with less than three minutes to go in the first half. Senior midfielder/forward Henni Otten recorded her fifth assist of the season by feeding Portugal, who was able to put it away on a backhanded shot.
Within the two-minute mark of regulation, Portugal beat Stanford’s All-American goalkeeper to notch her 20th goal of the season. Not only a personal career-high, but this was also her fourth straight game with a goal.
“I think we played great,” Otten said. “We played so hard. We played our hearts out, and I think that’s the key. You can’t just go for the game and think that you will win or lose, you just have to go for it.”
MU then made the cross-country trip to Durham, NC on Saturday for the second time this season, after having lost 2-0 a few weeks ago. This game, however, was different for MU. They led in penalty corners 5-1 and were outshot by just two — 9-7 — after having been outshot 29-5 in their last meeting.
Duke scored the first three goals of the game, and it wasn’t until the 56th minute that sophomore midfielder Lexi Silver got the RedHawks on the board after cleanly fielding a rebound off a blocked shot by Portugal.
“I think our presence and our game was outstanding,” Puzo said. “We knew we were going to have to play defense for a long period of time, but we were ready for that.”
With less than ten minutes to go, junior midfielder Estel Roig fed the ball to Otten on a penalty corner who put it away for her third goal of the season.
“We were disciplined and we really have different faces, different ways to play defense during the entire game,” Puzo said. “I think that was making Duke’s job more complicated. With the ball, we take care of opportunities better than in the past.”
Unfortunately, Miami’s comeback fell just short in the final three minutes when Duke was able to seal the game 4-2.
“I think the team showed great character and personality,” Puzo said. “When you are down 3-0 against the No. 2 [team], I think a lot of people would give up. Not with Miami. We don’t give up. We keep playing. We keep fighting.”
Portugal finished the season with team-highs in goals (20), assists (12), and total points (52). Passarella averaged 1.74 goals allowed per game with almost 1,500 minutes of play in goal this season. In seven seasons as Miami’s head coach, Puzo improved his overall record to 86-80. He also has led the field hockey program to four MAC titles with a 31-13 conference record.