Zalar Goal Lifts RedHawks to Tournament Title

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – For the second-straight contest, the Miami University soccer team’s bench proved the difference in a 1-0 win over Butler on Sunday.

Freshman Kat Zalar scored her first-collegiate goal with 13:28 left in regulation to clinch the RedHawks (2-0) perfect opening weekend and subsequent tournament title at the Boilermaker Challenge Cup.

Butler controlled play for large stretches of the first half. The Bulldogs outshot the RedHawks 7-1 and had a 3-1 edge in corner kicks over the first 45 minutes of play, though only one BU shot made its way on goal, which was stopped by Danielle Wiseman. That left the contest still scoreless at halftime.

“Credit to Butler, they are a disciplined and well-organized team,” head coach Bobby Kramig said. “They made things difficult for us. We weren’t really sure how to handle the situation and it was a good learning experience for our kids in terms of playing against teams that are set up like them. At halftime, we encouraged the team to play a little more aggressively. Once we did that, they loosened up a bit and we had some more success.”

The Red and White picked it up as the second half wore on and created more opportunities in the final regulation frame. After getting outshot by a 12-2 clip over the first 61:15, Miami attempted three-straight shots and had a pair of corner kick attempts over the next six minutes, but none found the net.

That all changed in the 77th minute when Zalar picked off goalkeeper Madison Card’s short play and fired into the net to give the Red and White a 1-0 lead with just over 13 minutes left to play. From there, the Red and White defense really locked things down and only allowed one more shot attempt the rest of the way to secure the tournament title.

“Kat took advantage of a misplay and did a great job on her first touch to gather the ball and finish,” Kramig said. “I felt we made some good adjustments defensively at halftime. We quit chasing the ball as much as we were in the first half.”

In her second-straight start in goal, Wiseman stopped three shots to post her second consecutive shutout. She stopped all nine shots she faced in 180 minutes of time in goal over the weekend. Wiseman was named the tournament’s Defensive MVP and was one of five RedHawks to earn a spot on the all-tournament team, joining Kelsey Dinges (Offensive MVP), Jess Bronke, Rachel Marble and Courtney Zanotti.

The Bulldogs ended up outshooting the RedHawks 15-8 and owned a 6-3 advantage in corner kicks. Play was much closer at both ends in the second half, however, as Butler held just an 8-7 edge in shots over the final 45 minutes of play.

Miami returns to the pitch on Aug. 31 when it travels to Northwestern.

RedHawks Blank Boilermakers 1-0 in Season Opener

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Miami University soccer team opened the 2014 season on a high note, topping Purdue, 1-0, in the Boilermaker Challenge Cup on Friday night.

The RedHawks (1-0) took advantage of an own goal in the 44th minute as Danielle Wiseman posted a shutout in her first-career start in goal.

“Any time you can get a win over a Big Ten team, you’ve done alright,” head coach Bobby Kramig said. “Purdue is a fine team and tonight was a good, evenly played game. I’m proud of our kids, they worked hard and played well together. Our bench played terrific. We know going into the season that our bench would be a strength and it made the difference tonight by wearing them down.”

Miami territorially controlled most of the play in the first half, outshooting Purdue by a 7-3 count. Still, it appeared the contest would go into halftime scoreless until there was 1:20 remaining. The RedHawks put the ball behind the Boilermaker defense and Amy Malone narrowly missed finished the play. The ball found a Purdue defender, but Malone’s pressure forced an errant clearance attempt that went off a Purdue foot and into the net to give MU a 1-0 lead at the break.

“The goal was the result of good pressure by us,” Kramig said. “We got in behind their defense and played a great ball that Amy Malone nearly got to the end of. She forced Purdue’s defender into a rushed clearance and it went in.”

Purdue fired three early shots in the second half, but all of them went wide. However, Miami went on the offensive from there and nearly went up 2-0 in the 56th minute when Chloe Knue fired a shot towards an open net, but an oncoming Purdue defender got to the ball at the goal line to keep it a one-goal contest.

After only taking seven shots, none of which were on goal, over the first 64 minutes of play, the Boilermakers started to press the attack towards the end of the second half. Purdue fired eight shots over the final 26 minutes. Despite the extra numbers on the attack, the Red and White defense kept the Boilermakers from finding the equalizer to post. That win is Miami’s first victory in four tries (1-2-1) over Purdue.

“Congratulations to Danielle on getting the shutout,” Kramig said. “She’s been a great teammate for the last three years and I’m absolutely thrilled that she’s getting a chance to shine. She played well tonight.”

In her first collegiate start, Wiseman turned aside all four shots she faced to post her first-career shutout. The late Purdue surge gave it a slight 15-13 advantage in shot attempts while the Boilermakers also had a 7-4 edge in corner kicks.

Miami closes out its stint at the Boilermaker Challenge Cup on Sunday when it takes on Butler at 11 a.m.

RedHawks Begin Season at Purdue

OXFORD, Ohio – With a promising exhibition season in the rear view mirror, the 2014 season is nearly underway for the Miami University soccer team.

On Friday, the RedHawks’ fall campaign begins with a trip to West Lafayette, Indiana for the Boilermaker Challenge Cup. Miami opens the weekend tournament against host Purdue, a contest that kicks off on Friday at 7 p.m. The weekend concludes with a neutral site contest against Butler on Sunday, which starts at 11 a.m.

The RedHawks were tabbed to finish second in the MAC East Division in the league’s preseason coach’s poll. Miami has won the past two MAC East titles, including an overall regular season and MAC Tournament championship in 2012. Seven starters return from last season’s 11-6-4 squad that finished second in the overall league standings with a 7-1-3 MAC record.

MU’s returners include seniors Kelsey Dinges and Courtney Zanotti, who were both Second-Team All-MAC selections last fall. Dinges recorded a team-high 20 points on seven goals and six assists a year ago, which was the second-straight season she earned All-MAC recognition. Zanotti played a team-high 1,928 minutes for a defense that set a school record with 12 shutouts while recording a league-best 0.51 goals against average during MAC play. Other returning starters include 2012 MAC Freshman of the Year Haley Walter, fellow juniors Jess Bronke, Lauren Kelly and Hailey Pleshakov along with sophomores Rachel Marble and Shannon Stearns.

Miami went an unbeaten 1-0-1 during its exhibition slate, topping Radford 1-0 and playing Northern Kentucky to a 1-1 tie. During that stretch, the RedHawks outshot their opponents 40-13 and showcased impressive depth with its 11 newcomers playing extended minutes.

Purdue went 8-10-1 with a 3-8 mark in the Big Ten last fall. The Boilermakers return top scorer Maddy Williams, who posted 26 points on 10 goals and six assists as a freshman in 2013. She is one of six returning starters that Purdue has back in the fold.

Butler is coming off a 2013 campaign that saw it go 11-7-2 overall and 4-5 in the new look Big East Conference. The Bulldogs return eight starters and 22 letter winners, including Sophia Maccagnone and Elise Kotsakis, their top two scorers from a year ago who combined for 44 points on 16 goals and 12 assists in 2013.

Miami is winless (0-2-1) in three all-time meetings against Purdue and holds a 2-4-1 record all-time against Butler.

Live stats will be available for both contests this weekend. Friday’s tilt against Purdue will have a free audio broadcast available. Fans can also watch a video webcast for a fee.

2014 Preview: Deep RedHawks Poised for Strong Fall

OXFORD, Ohio – Success breeds expectations and the Miami University soccer program is expecting plenty during the 2014 season.

The RedHawks are coming off their second-straight Mid-American Conference East Division title and return seven starters from a squad that finished the 2013 campaign on a 12-match unbeaten streak (8-0-4). That veteran experience, combined with 11 talented incoming freshmen, has head coach Bobby Kramig enthusiastic for what’s to come this fall, his 32nd season with Miami (17th as head coach of the women’s program).

“This is one of the deepest teams I’ve ever coached,” Kramig said. “There is not one player on the roster that I wouldn’t feel comfortable with putting into a game. I think some of the toughest competition we see all year is going to be in practice each day as players try to separate themselves in the lineup. There just is not a lot of drop off from our top players to our reserves and it is exciting.”

The resume over the past two seasons speaks for itself. After missing the MAC Tournament in 2011, the Red and White are a combined 31-9-5 over the past two seasons, including an astounding 17-1-4 in MAC play. In 2012, the RedHawks won their second regular season MAC title in school history and their first since 2002 when they went 21-3-1 with a 10-0-1 league ledger. MU claimed its fourth conference tournament crown that year, also its first since 2002, and proceeded to upset Tennessee for its third NCAA Tournament win in school history.

Last season, the Red and White defeated eventual MAC Champion Eastern Michigan early in conference play and ultimately finished second in the overall league standings at 11-6-4 overall and 7-1-3 in the MAC. After dropping their conference opener in Akron by a 2-1 count to fall to 3-6-1 on the season, Miami kicked it into another gear from there and did not lose another match the rest of the year.

While the team finished one point behind EMU in the regular season standings, an emphatic 3-0 victory over Northern Illinois in Oxford gave MU the look of a team that could go on the road and punch its NCAA ticket once again. The RedHawks did not lack for opportunities in the semifinals as they outshot Ball State 34-9 over four periods of play, but the contest remained scoreless after 110 minutes and the Cardinals outlasted the Red and White in penalty kicks to end their season short of their goal.

While First-Team All-MAC selections Katy Dolesh and Kayla Zakrzewski have graduated, Miami is optimistic that it has plenty of talent both experienced and new to fill the void that they left on the field. Those two combined for 33 points on 12 goals and nine assists, but MU still returns three other players that posted at least 11 points last fall.

“I think it will be awhile before the MAC sees players like Katy Dolesh and Kayla Zakrzewski again,” Kramig said. “You don’t look to replace them, but the nature of college athletics is you move on. We have a good freshman class coming in and a good team coming back. I think we’ll be just fine with what we have.

Observing from the exhibition season, it appears sophomore Rachel Marble (Midland, Mich./Midland Dow) will get the first crack to be the RedHawks’ target forward after scoring a pair of goals during her freshman campaign. She had a hand in both MU goals during its 1-0-1 exhibition slate, scoring the game-winning goal at Radford and dishing out an assist against Northern Kentucky.

Among the returners, senior Kelsey Dinges (Smithton, Ill./Althoff Catholic) and juniors Jess Bronke (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South) and Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio/Kings) form a decorated core on the attack. Dinges was a Second-Team All-MAC performer who recorded a team-best 20 points (7 goals, 6 assists) a year ago while Bronke earned a spot on last year’s MAC All-Tournament Team after posting 12 points (5 goals, 2 assists).

“We lost some offensive punch over the last two years. We still have Kelsey, who is one of the most dangerous offensive players in the conference. Haley has been a good goal scorer for us over the past two seasons and Jess really stepped up at the end of the season. One of the things we need to do is spread our scoring out a little bit more across the team, which I think we can do.”

“I’ve been impressed with the team since the first day of training,” Bronke said. “The newcomers have picked things up fast and that has challenged us to step up our level of play. We’ve flashed some good finishing ability so, which we actually haven’t worked on a lot yet.”

Walter is a former MAC Freshman of the Year back in 2012, when she also earned Second-Team All-MAC recognition. She also netted five goals and added an assist for 11 points last fall.

“I was pleasantly surprised with how well everyone is working,” Walter said. “The effort and intensity at each practice is solid across the board. This year, we have found our rhythm more quickly than in years past. Personally, I feel more confident and more prepared than my first two years.”

The RedHawks’ 11 freshmen got extended playing time during their two exhibitions and were impressive as a group. That group was treated as a second-string unit of sorts during the preseason, but it is becoming clear that the majority of them will create some difficult decisions for the coaching staff as they press for expanded minutes during the season.

“The thing that has struck me about this team is the level of competition there has been in practice thus far,” Kramig said. “I haven’t seen such parity on a roster here before. Everyone is battling day in and day out for playing time. To be able to match up some of our freshmen against our experienced seniors helps everyone.”

While there are some shifting parts on the offense, the RedHawks’ defense is stocked full of familiar faces that formed a successful unit over the past two seasons. The Red and White return three of their starting defenders from last year’s team that set a school record with 12 shutouts and recorded a league-best 0.51 goals against average during MAC play.

MU’s defense is anchored by senior Courtney Zanotti (North Royalton, Ohio/Lutheran West), who earned Second-Team All-MAC honors last fall after playing a team-high 1,928 of a possible 2,004 minutes on defense. She is joined by junior Lauren Kelly (Manhattan, Ill./Lincoln-Way Central) and sophomore Shannon Stearns (Orland Hills, Ill./Carl Sandburg), who combined for 34 starts a year ago. Also getting a crack at a starting role is sophomore Dana Miller (Wheaton, Ill./Wheaton Warrenville South), who played in all but one contest off the bench a year ago.

“You have to start from the back line,” Kramig said. “If you don’t have things put together defensively, it destroys everything else you’re trying to do. To have an experienced back four coming back provides so much more confidence for the players in front of them to focus on doing their job. Courtney was an obvious choice for team captain and she’s done a terrific job so far. She has good radar and knows what is going on with the team. I don’t think there is anything that gets by her, I have great trust in Courtney as captain.”

“I’m excited for this season,” Zanotti said. “Everyone wants to do well for each other. We’re excited to hopefully surpass what we did last year and advance further like we did two years ago. I think it’s great to have. I think it’s great to have the same faces next to me. We know how each other plays and having a solid back line really helps propel our offense. Everyone is working hard and we’re all comfortable playing with each other.

“I haven’t seen a preseason as intense as this one. Everyone is going hard at each practice at all position. We feed off each other’s energy and feed off each other to get better.”

Like the group up front, there are minutes being fought for on defense as the newcomers are hot on the trail of the veterans. While the starting unit seems more settled than other areas of the team, competition at camp has been intense and that extends to the back line.

As far as the last line of defense, the RedHawks are replacing record-setting goalkeeper Allison Norenberg, who left with the school record in wins and shutouts. Senior Danielle Wiseman (Canton, Ohio/Jackson) has seen limited action over her first three seasons, but started both exhibitions without allowing a goal.

Freshman Alexis Carpenter (Westlake, Ohio/Westlake) split time in goal with Wiseman during the exhibition slate, allowing just one goal in roughly 90 minutes of play. The RedHawks also have sophomore Vic Maniaci (Chesterfield, Mich./L’Anse Creuse North) in the fold. Maniaci served as the team’s backup goalkeeper in 2013 and posted a shutout in her lone appearance last fall.

“You cannot overstate the value of having an Allison Norenberg on your team when it comes to leadership,” Kramig said. “Danielle is a senior who is really a role model for the rest of the team. We need people that put their teammates first and she gets that. Vic is one of the most talented goalkeepers we’ve brought into the program and I look forward to getting her some game time. Alexis is a bit new to the position, she only has a few years of experience in goal. She is an athletic kid who has a good future with us in store.”

In preparation of for the rigors of MAC play, the Red and White open the season in the Boilermaker Challenge Cup to face Purdue (Aug. 22) and Butler (Aug. 24), starting a challenging seven-match non-conference slate that pits Miami against two NCAA Tournament teams from 2013. The end of the RedHawks’ season-opening four-match road trip ends with trips to Northwestern (Aug. 31) and perennial NCAA Tournament qualifier Louisville (Sept. 7). From there, the Red and White play their next seven at home, closing out the non-conference portion of their schedule against IPFW (Sept. 14), Marshall (Sept. 19) and NCAA Round of 32 qualifier Illinois State on (Sept. 21; Senior Day).

“This is probably the toughest non-conference schedule that we have played in quite some time,” Kramig said. “We have our work cut out for us, but I think the team is up to the challenge. We played several of these teams last year and I think we know what we’re in for. We have to be mentally tough and play well in those games. I don’t think there is any lack of confidence in our ability to play at that level.”

The RedHawks were picked to finish second in the MAC East Division in the league’s preseason coach’s poll. Miami’s first two conference weekends are at home against Eastern Michigan (Sept. 26), Bowling Green (Sept. 28), Toledo (Oct. 3) and Central Michigan (Oct. 5). After a brief trip to face Kent State (Oct. 10) and Ohio (Oct. 12), the Red and White play their final regular season home matches against Northern Illinois (Oct. 17) and Western Michigan (Oct. 19). The regular season concludes with road tilts at Akron (Oct. 24), Buffalo (Oct. 26) and Ball State (Oct. 30).

From there, the MAC Tournament begins with the top four regular season finishers hosting quarterfinal contests on Nov. 2. The highest remaining seed host the semifinals (Nov. 7) and championship (Nov. 9) to determine one of the spots in the NCAA Tournament.

“Coming back as I look at our lineup, two of our four defenders in my mind are the best at their position in the conference. I think two of our midfielders are the best at their position. We have a lot of talent coming back, the players are there. Our job is to get them organized and get everyone on the same page as best as we can.”

RedHawks, Norse, Close Exhibition in 1-1 Tie

OXFORD, Ohio – Kelsey Dinges’ goal in the 12th minute highlighted a strong team performance for the Miami University soccer team as it closed exhibition play with a 1-1 tie against Northern Kentucky on Sunday.

Kelsey Dinges celebrates with Jenna Weiner after her goal put the RedHawks up 1-0.

The Red and White close out the exhibition slate 1-0-1 after enjoying a decisive territorial advantage in possession at Miami Soccer Field. MU outshot NKU by a 21-8 margin and took 10 corner kicks while not allowing the Norse an opportunity to set up from the corner.

“As a coach you want to see the things you work on in practice show up in game and I think we are seeing that,” Miami head coach Bobby Kramig said. “I’m pleased with where we are. I think we’ll be ready for the start of the season next weekend. It’s also a bonus that nobody suffered any injuries during the exhibition schedule, we’re in good shape physically and I think we’ll be ready for the season to start on Friday.”

Miami came out of the gate dominating possession and Dinges found the back of the net with 11:05 gone by. Rachel Marble threaded a through ball past the Norse defense and it checked up just inside the 18-yard box. NKU goalkeeper Tanner Ruberg came out to try and cover the ball up, but Dinges won the ensuing footrace, worked the ball around her and tapped the ball into the vacated net to make it a 1-0 contest.

The RedHawks’ starting lineup played the entire first half to inch closer to game shape when the season opens in five days. That unit put in solid work, outshooting NKU 9-4 and owning a 4-0 advantage in corner kicks while taking a 1-0 lead into halftime.

MU went entirely to its bench to field its second-half lineup and the results were promising early on. A mostly freshman group peppered NKU’s defense to the tune of an 8-1 shot advantage over the first 18 minutes of play. Amy Malone had a strong opportunity when the ball worked to her atop the 18-yard box off a corner kick, but Ruberg dove to the post to stop her heavy low shot in the 64th minute.

Perhaps the best individual effort came out of Chloe Knue in the 71st minute. The freshman hustled to keep the ball in play at the sideline, won a footrace with an oncoming defender to push the ball forward at midfield, then blew past the Norse defense for a breakaway down the left side. She launched a powerful left-footed shot from the left wing that narrowly missed the far post, keeping it a one-goal contest.

A break went the Norse way in the 76th minute. The ball was worked into traffic in the attacking area and NKU’s Sam Davis dug the ball out with the net open. Davis’ shot found the net and evened the score at 1-1, which is where it ended after 90 minutes of play.

Danielle Wiseman started for the second-straight match and turned aside the only shot she faced in a scoreless first half. Alexis Carpenter relieved her for the second half and also made a save in the final 45 minutes of play. Dinges, Knue and Jenna Weiner all finished with three shot attempts, tying for the team lead.

The RedHawks begin their regular season on Friday when they take on Purdue at the Boilermaker Challenge Cup. Opening kickoff is at 7 p.m.