With just three regular season games remaining before the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Tournament, the Miami University soccer team faces arguably its toughest challenge of the season Friday, traveling north to take on Central Michigan University, before returning home Sunday to face Bowling Green State University.
Miami has dominated up to this point in the season, powering their way to a 14-2 (8-0 MAC) record. The RedHawks are in firm control of the MAC East Division and can take complete control of the conference with a win over Central Michigan, who is 7-1 in the MAC and sit atop the West Division.
“We need to keep the focus on us,” Head Coach Bobby Kramig said. “Central Michigan is obviously a very good team, but we’re not worried about the opponent. We want to focus on what we do and doing it better. If we go out and play the type of soccer that we know we can play, then win, lose or draw, we take it, deal with it and move on to the next game.”
The ‘Hawks have been tested by their opponents and by Mother Nature in recent weeks, proving they can play in adverse situations. Miami won two consecutive games against Eastern Michigan University and Northern Illinois University that came down to final possessions and have played physical all year.
“You learn from every experience out there,” Kramig said. “I thought we did a good job against Toledo, in particular, going up a goal early, then staying focused defensively for almost 70 minutes. We’ve definitely learned things after each game.”
Miami has found a balance between offense and defense this year, scoring 45 goals in 16 games, while only giving up 16. The RedHawks have posted shutouts in eight of their 16 games, five more than they had all of 2011.
“I think we played great, defensively, against Toledo,” redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg said. “I’m happy with how the back line is playing. We did lose track, mentally, against Eastern [Michigan] and Northern [Illinois], but we talked about it and it has definitely shown on the field with our resiliency and willingness to fight. With Central [Michigan] we have to come out expecting a lot of set pieces off of corner kicks and plays at the top of the box.”
Sunday’s game vs. Bowling Green is easy on paper, as the Falcons are just 1-14-1 on the season, with no conference victories, but Miami is not taking the game lightly. The ‘Hawks were beaten earlier this season by Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) in double overtime. IPFW was supposed to be an easy victory, but Kramig said the team learned its lesson from playing lackluster soccer, and giving below average teams confidence by letting them stay in games.
Miami is seeking its first win over Bowling Green in two seasons, after a 1-1 tie in double overtime last season.
“We are going to take these last few games one at a time,” Kramig said. “Friday, Central Michigan will be the most important game on the schedule, and as soon as that is over with, Bowling Green will be our top priority. We just have to remember that it’s still three MAC points that we need to secure.”
Friday’s action kicks off 4 p.m. and Sunday’s game starts 1 p.m. in Oxford.