Zach Maciaszek, For The Miami Student

The Miami University soccer team (6-6-2) looks to gain some ground in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) as it takes on Northern Illinois University (4-8-2) and the University of Toledo (5-9-0) this weekend at home.

After high-profile games against the then top-two teams in the MAC, the ‘Hawks play the bottom two teams in the MAC West division. Miami is 3-1-2 in conference play.

Head coach Bobby Kramig said he doesn’t think the RedHawks will overlook their opponents.

“These kids know what MAC games are all about,” Kramig said. “I think we learned that lesson at Akron. Both games this weekend are going to be very difficult.”

Team captain and senior forward Katy Dolesh also said the ‘Hawks will be focusing on this weekend and not looking ahead.

“In the past, we’ve dealt with that,” Dolesh said. “Last year we definitely did when we played Ball State [University]. But every team in the MAC this year is doing well. Everyone’s beating everyone, and just because we played two of the top teams last weekend doesn’t mean that these two teams this weekend couldn’t also be top teams. Everyone’s good this year.”

The Huskies of NIU are averaging 1.14 goals per game while allowing an average of 1.79 goals per game. Sophomore forward Nicole Gobbo leads the team in scoring, with has 12 points on six goals.

Dolesh said playing NIU is a challenge because the Huskies play a physical style of soccer that is similar to what the RedHawks saw in a win over Kent State University this year.

“They don’t really play any type of possession in soccer,” Dolesh said. “Obviously, we like to try to possess the ball. They just like to get the ball, kick it forward and have everyone run and kind of hope for a mishit or a misclearance and find a way to get forward still off of that.”

Dolesh said it is a style of soccer that the ‘Hawks prefer not to play.

“We don’t like that [style] because [the ball] is always coming right back down our throats,” Dolesh said. “So we never sometimes get a chance to possess, and so we kind of end up playing like they do.”

Dolesh said Miami needs to play smart in order to counter NIU’s physical style of play.

“It’s just making the right decisions,” Dolesh said. “We’re going to try to work on it in the midfield, making the right decisions for playing the ball through or playing the ball to feet, and just using our heads a lot more so that we can keep possession of the ball and not just do things that give it up.”

The Toledo Rockets average 1.5 goals per game, but surrender 2.07 goals per game. The toughest challenge for the RedHawks’ defense will be to corral senior forward Rachel MacLeod, Macleod the second-leading scorer in the MAC, has 22 points on 10 goals and two assists. Kramig said defending against MacLeod will be a difficult task.

“[She’s] the leading goal scorer in the conference,” Kramig said. “Fabulous player … She in and of herself is a very difficult player to deal with.”

Kickoff for the match against NIU is 4 p.m. Friday. Game time for the match versus Toledo is 1 p.m. Sunday.