Freshman Dee Nocero scores sixth goal of season

Team must win on Thursday against Bowling Green to earn a spot in MAC Tournament.

For three years, the goal for the women's soccer team has been to make the Mid-American Conference Tournament. And this weekend, it faced what head coach Ron Rainey called "the toughest biggest weekend in the program's history."

Needing wins in two of its last three MAC games, the team posted two of its best games of the year, according to Rainey.

On Friday, the Cardinals (10-5-2 overall, 4-5-2 MAC) worked a 1-1 tie against the defending MAC champions, Miami Redhawks, a team that Rainey said was the best the MAC had to offer.

"When you're at a place like Miami and the game both teams played on Friday, it was a treat to be a part of," Rainey said. "Hopefully players, coaches and fans walked away and said 'Those two teams worked very hard.'

"Both teams had times when it could have won. But both teams really deserved a point (in the MAC standings) out of it."

But hosting the No. 1 team in the MAC, Central Michigan, the Cardinals did not let the game go into overtime.

Stopping a three-game winless streak, the Cards beat the Chippewas 2-1 in a physical game dominated by defense.

Central struck first, only five minutes into the first period with a header by Kjersten Kuhlman on a corner kick. And for the next 20 minutes, the Chippewas dominated the Cardinals by controlling the ball and limiting the Cards to only three shots.

But in the 28th minute, junior Emily Feeney shot a perfect pass to freshman Kate Nadalin for the tying goal.

"It was an amazing pass," Nadalin said of Feeney's assist. "Coach has been telling us all year to play the endlines and get the ball out in the middle for someone to get a foot on. It was a great pass, and I just happened to be there."

The Cards used the goal as a boost of energy as they began controlling the ball and being the aggressor, rather than wait and see what came. And according to Rainey, the added aggressiveness was the key to the team's win.

Sophomore Michelle Dineen scored on a diving header only eight minutes into the second half, giving the Cards the lead.

The Chippewas mounted several attacks, but the Cardinals' defense thwarted all shots. After CMU's Lisa Taube received a red card while tripping freshman Dee Nocero on a breakaway -- and was ejected from the game with 10 minutes to play -- the Cardinals were able to hold off the Chippewas for the remaining time.

"People just stepped up today, especially in the second half," Rainey said. "I thought we were very aggressive. And you're not going to get those opportunities if you're not aggressive.

"We weren't worried about making mistakes or being timid or being a afraid to make a play."

But the win did not secure the Cards tournament bid, as they must defeat Bowling Green at home Thursday afternoon to make it. But coming off two of the team's best performances of the season, Rainey emphasized how much the victory means for the young Cardinal team.

"To go to a place like Miami and pull out a tie is huge," Rainey said. "And then to come home and beat Central, both are team's that will be hosting first-round games in the tournament, it was big."


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