OXFORD, Ohio - No. 6 seed Toledo (7-11-2) will look to take one step closer to successfully defending its Mid-American Conference Tournament championship when it faces No. 2 seed Central Michigan (14-5-1) in the second of two semifinal contests on Friday, Nov. 2 in Oxford, OH. Kickoff for the match is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. at the Miami Soccer Field. Tickets are $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for children 18-and-under, while students of all MAC institutions get in free with a student ID.
The Rockets (2006, ‘07, ‘08, ‘11) and Chippewas (2009, ‘10) have dominated the MAC Tournament as of late, combining to win the last six postseason events.
UT's contest vs. CMU will be a rematch of the 2009 MAC tourney semifinals claimed by the Chippewas on penalty kicks, 4-2. The MAC West Division rivals played to a scoreless tie through regulation and two overtime periods at the CMU Soccer Complex, before the Maroon & Gold advanced on PKs. With the loss, the Rockets' three-year reign as tourney champions came to an end.
The MAC-best four-time tourney champion Toledo and Central Michigan make up one half of the ‘Final Four.' The other semifinal pits top seed Miami (17-2-1) against No. 4 seed Kent State (13-4-2) at 11:00 a.m. The winner of the 16th-annual postseason event receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships.
UT advanced to Friday's semifinals after outlasting No. 3 seed Eastern Michigan, 2-1, on penalty kicks on Sunday in Ypsilanti. The Rockets and Eagles battled to a 1-1 tie through 110 minutes of play at blustery Scicluna Field, before settling matters through PKs. It marked the fifth time in school history Toledo has had a tourney match decided by penalty kicks, with the Midnight Blue & Gold having advanced on three occasions. CMU, meanwhile, blanked No. 7 seed Northern Illinois, 2-0, at home to advance to Friday's semifinals.
Toledo will be making a league-record seventh consecutive MAC Tournament Semifinal appearance under Head Coach Brad Evans. UT is a stellar 12-1-5 in tourney action under Coach Evans, including 2-0-4 away from home. Last fall in the semifinals, the top-seed Rockets tallied a 3-1 victory over No. 5 seed Buffalo at Scott Park.
A driving force why the Rockets are playing in this weekend's ‘Final Four' has been the performance of their defense. UT has allowed one goal or less in 12 matches against league opponents this fall.
The group of senior Natalia Gaitan, senior Megan Blake, senior Jaimie Morsillo, sophomore Kirsten Catloth and sophomore Brooke Lawler have improved as the season has gone on and done a good job protecting the goal. Overall, Toledo currently sits tied for seventh in the league in shutouts (5) and 10th in goals allowed (26) and goals-against average (1.25). In league matches, UT finished tied for seventh in blankings (3), eighth in GAA (1.15) and tied for eighth in goals surrendered (13).
Between the posts, freshman Sam Tiongson (2-3-1 record) and sophomore Kelsey Borowitz (5-8-1 mark) continue to share time. Tiongson has seen action in 638:28 minutes, allowing seven goals (0.99 GAA) while making 20 saves. Borowitz has accumulated 1,238:18 minutes in goal, giving up 19 scores (1.38 GAA) with 43 stops. Tiongson is currently fifth in the MAC in GAA, while Borowitz is tied for 10th in shutouts (3).
The area of play that has probably come the furthest since the beginning of the season has been in the midfield. UT has received outstanding efforts from senior Kristen Mattei, senior Rachael Kravitz, sophomore Meghan Topolewski, sophomore Alexis Tice, freshman Megan Connor and freshman Geri Siudzinski. This goup has done a good maintaining possession of the ball in the middle of the pitch, winning 50/50 balls in the air, and applying a great deal of pressure when on defense. They have been a physical group and have wreaked havoc on the opposition as of late. Mattei spearheads the midfield and currently ranks fourth on the team with four points (two goals), including Toledo's lone score in regulation at Eastern Michigan on Sunday.
Leading the way offensively at the top of the circle is junior Rachel MacLeod, who has totaled a team-high 13 points (five goals, three assists). The 2011 MAC Offensive Player of the Year is finally healthy after battling an assortment of injuries for a majority of the fall and has been superb in the attack over the last six matches. MacLeod has totaled two goals and one assist and averaged 4.7 shots during this stretch. She was credited with the helper at EMU on Sunday and successfully converted the match-winning penalty kick to help UT advance to the ‘Final Four.' The two-time all-league performer is supported offensively by Gaitan (eight pts., four goals), Blake (five pts., two goals, one assist) and freshman Angelica Hernandez (four pts., two goals). A total of 11 players have scored a goal this fall. Toledo currently sits third in the conference in corner kicks (90), sixth in goals (21), seventh in shots (240), tied for seventh in total points (55) and tied for ninth in assists (13). In MAC matches, UT ranked third in corner kicks (55), tied for fifth in goals (14), sixth in total points (37), seventh in shots (131) and tied for seventh in helpers (9).
Central Michigan enters Friday's action in the midst of a three-match win streak and will compete in the semifinal round of the MAC tourney for a fifth straight year and league-record 10th all-time appearance. The 2012 MAC West Division champions are led offensively by Jennifer Gassman with 10 points (four goals, two assists). Gassman is closely supported by Laura Gosse (four goals, one assist), Laura Twidle (three goals, three assists) and Danielle Rotheram (three goals, three assists) with nine points each. A total of 14 Central Michigan players have scored a goal this season. In goal, Stefanie Turner has started 15 matches and sits first in the league in GAA (0.69) and shutouts (10), as well as ranking second in save percentage (.825). As a team, CMU is first in the MAC in shutouts (11), second in shots (354), third in goals allowed (17) and GAA (0.83), tied for third in goals scored (30), fourth in total points (80), sixth in assists (20) and seventh in corner kicks (80). The all-time series between the Rockets and Chippewas is tied at 5-5-6. Earlier this fall, Bailey Brandon and Rotheram each scored first-half goals to lift CMU to a 2-0 victory at Scott Park.
2012 MAC Women's Soccer Tournament Schedule
Quarterfinals — Sunday, Oct. 28 (at campus sites/higher seed)
Match 1 — #1 Miami 1, #8 Ohio 0
Match 2 — #4 Kent State 4, #5 Ball State 0
Match 3 — #6 TOLEDO 1, #3 Eastern Michigan 1 (Rockets Advance 2-1 on Penalty Kicks)
Match 4 — #2 Central Michigan 2, #7 Northern Illinois 0
Semifinals — Friday, Nov. 2 (at Oxford, OH)
Match 5 — Kent State at Miami, 11:00 a.m.
Match 6 — TOLEDO vs. Central Michigan, 2:00 p.m.
Championship — Sunday, Nov. 4 (at Oxford, OH)
Match 7 — Match 5 Winner vs. Match 6 Winner, 1:00 p.m.