OXFORD - The Bowling Green State University women's soccer team gave the top team in the Mid-American Conference quite a battle, and the Falcons even took the lead on host Miami University early in the second half. But, in the end, the RedHawks rallied for a 3-1 win on Sunday afternoon (Oct. 21) at the Miami Soccer Field.
With the win, MU improves to 16-2-0 on the season, and the RedHawks are now a perfect 10-0-0 in MAC play. Miami has clinched the league's regular-season championship. The Falcons drop to 1-16-1 and 0-9-1, respectively.
"It was another battle today," said BGSU coach Kellie Evans. "Our team did a fantastic job, in both games this weekend, of putting forth great effort. We were not outworked, and we had a great chance that we put away today."
Miami entered the weekend ranked fifth in the nation in scoring offense, and the RedHawks had five players ranked among the top 100 in the country in point scored. But, the Falcons battled the hosts through a scoreless first half. Then, the visitors struck first in the second period.
Freshman Demy Whitaker gave the Brown and Orange the lead at the 50:46 mark, running onto the end of a beautiful service by redshirt sophomore Amanda Nelson. After a Miami foul near midfield, Nelson took a free kick from the left side of the pitch, in front of the BGSU bench. Her curving kick sailed into the box, and the onrushing Whitaker got her head on the ball. MU goalkeeper Allison Norenberg was able to get a glove on the shot, but could not keep the ball out of the net.
For Whitaker, the goal was her first as a Falcon, while the assist marked Nelson's first collegiate point.
But, the RedHawks responded in a big way. The home team applied tremendous pressure on the BGSU defense, and Miami finally broke through in the 71st minute. Jess Kodiak scored the tying goal, cleaning up a rebound after a shot from Katy Dolesh. The Dolesh effort was headed toward the upper right corner of the goal, and BGSU freshman goalkeeper Jenna Underwood made a leaping effort to keep the ball out of the net, but could not grab it. The ball fell to Kodiak, who put it away for her ninth goal of the year.
Despite the scoreline, Underwood had her second stellar game of the weekend. The freshman, who made a career-high 12 saves in Friday's 1-0 double-overtime loss at Ball State, again had 12 stops on Sunday against the RedHawks. Underwood has 31 saves over her last three full games (she played one half of last Sunday's match) and 64 saves on the year.
Just over three minutes after tying the match, Kodiak scored her 10th goal of the season, giving the RedHawks the lead for good. Off of a long throw-in, MU's Kelsey Dinges blooped a shot toward the upper 90. The ball glanced off the crossbar and came right to Kodiak on the doorstep, and she headed it home at 73:58.
"I think we got a little tired toward the end," said Evans. "Miami is obviously a very talented, athletic team, and they are strong in the air. I think, after playing a lot of minutes on Friday and playing in another physical battle today, we got a little tired. To Miami's credit, they took advantage and put a couple of goals away just a few minutes apart."
Miami got some insurance with just over five minutes left in the match, as Dolesh headed home a corner kick by Kodiak. Kodiak had two goals and an assist on the day, while Dolesh had a goal and an assist and Dinges added two helpers.
That Miami trio of Kodiak, Dolesh and Dinges has combined for 28 goals and 19 assists. MU's Haley Walter and Kayla Zakrzewski, each held without a point by the Falcons, have scored an aggregate 13 goals and 16 assists, rounding out the RedHawks' quintet of top-100 scorers nationally.
The Falcons continued to battle after Miami's third goal. Only 20 seconds after the Dolesh score, senior Sarah VonderBrink redirected a ball on goal, forcing Norenberg to make a diving stop at the far post. Norenberg had a total of three saves on the day.
The RedHawks also were credited with a team save in the 14th minute of the match. After a Nelson corner kick from the left side, junior Kaitlyn Tobin put a shot on target, but a Miami defender blocked the ball off of the line.
With 26 minutes gone, a ball by junior Madeline Wideman very nearly put a teammate behind the RedHawk defense. But, at the last second, a Miami back was able to get a boot on the ball.
Soon after, Underwood came off of her line to make a nice save on Dolesh. With the Miami striker in behind the BG defense, Underwood took the ball away from her with a sliding effort at the top of the box.
Wideman looked to give the Falcons the lead late in the first half, driving a free kick toward the far post. But, Norenberg made a nice effort of her own, diving to her left to make the save. The teams went to the halftime break knotted in a scoreless deadlock.
Early in the second period, a short corner kick nearly caught the RedHawks napping. Senior Leah Johnson combined with Wideman on the play, but Wideman's shot was just wide left, hitting the outside of the net. Two minutes later, however, Whitaker's shot was on goal, and gave the Brown and Orange the lead.
The RedHawks entered the match on a 10-game winning streak, averaging nearly three goals per game in that span. The home team, in the unfamiliar position of trailing in the second half, increased the pressure. A minute after Whitaker's goal, Underwood made a diving save on Dolesh's header off of a free kick. Then, the freshman made another nifty stop after Zakrzewski, on the dead run, hit a blast from the left side.
The hosts had a pair of shots within a 90-second span, and both appeared to be deflected by BG defenders. First, MU's Jess Bronke hit a ball from straight on, and the ball was redirected, but Underwood parried the shot and grabbed it on one hop.
Then, Lauren Kelly fired a shot from distance, and the ball caromed off the hip of a Falcon defender. Underwood, however, saw the ball all the way, and she made a diving effort to her right to grab the low shot at the far post in the 66th minute. Finally, though, the RedHawks broke through on Kodiak's rebound goal five minutes later.
Underwood continued to impress, however, with a spectacular diving save of Zakrzewski's half-volley. Off of a right-side service, Zakrzewski struck her shot well, but Underwood made the point-blank stop in the 72nd minute.
MU's continual pressure, though, resulted in Kodiak's go-ahead goal, and Dolesh's insurance tally gave the home team some breathing room in the final few minutes of play.
"Overall, I am incredibly proud of the team," said Evans. "It was great to see Demy get that goal today, off of a quality service by Amanda Nelson on a set piece, and we really played with some composure for about 20 minutes before they finally broke through.
"Jenna Underwood had another great day, and it was a tremendous effort from the entire team. We did an outstanding job of absorbing pressure early on, and of fighting to generate some chances ourselves.
"In addition to Jenna's play, Maddie Wideman was dangerous on the dribble, Emma Norris played in different spots and was very disciplined, and of course, Amanda Nelson served a great ball that Demy was able to get a head on. I could go on and on about each of our players.
"I couldn't be more proud of the effort that they put forth in both games this weekend. This team has had more fight than I could ever have imagined, and I am very proud of each and every one of them."
The Falcons will return home to close the 2012 season with a Thursday (Oct. 25) match against Central Michigan University. That match will begin at 3:00 p.m. at Cochrane Field.