It would be easy for the Central Michigan women’s soccer team to count out Akron and Buffalo this weekend, but they refuse to do so.
After a winning weekend on the road, including a 2-1 win over Northern Illinois in double overtime on Sunday, CMU claimed first place in the Mid–American Conference West and will now play two teams near the bottom of the MAC standings.
The Chippewas aren’t letting their guard down for Buffalo and Akron, despite their 1–4–1 and 0–6 conference records, respectively.
“I’m always wary of teams who aren’t doing so well or who aren’t where they want to be, because those are the teams that are frustrated and lash out,” head coach Neil Stafford said.
Last year, CMU tied 0-0 with both teams after double overtime.
Stafford said Akron clogged the middle, but he isn’t sure what to expect this year with interim head coach Vernon Croft leading the program.
The Chippewas struggled last year to break down Buffalo, because they were a compact team, Stafford said.
“Their first shot and corner kick came in the 82nd minute,” he said. “You could tell what their game plan was last year, and I don’t see this game being any different.”
Junior forward Morgan Wilcoxon stressed the importance of not underestimating Akron and Buffalo.
“Last year, we didn’t get the job done, so this time we need to get the goals and be clinical,” she said.
Things could be a little shaken up for the Chippewas on Friday when they play without senior defender Katie Slaughter.
Slaughter was issued a red card in the game against Northern Illinois. Shortly after Slaughter was removed from the game, freshman defender Michelle Brownlee, who often is a substitute for Slaughter, rolled her ankle.
Friday’s game will be an opportunity for players to step up with Slaugher and Brownlee both sidelined, Stafford said.
“It’s almost identical to playing your third–string quarterback in football,” he said. “It’s a chance for someone to prove themselves.”
Senior midfielder Autumn Hawkins said playing at home after a four–game road stretch should be to their advantage.
“I think we’re going to have a good weekend being at home,” Hawkins said. “The home crowd helps, and if we continue to work on our possession and work as a unit, I think we’ll do great.”
Friday’s game against Akron begins at 4 p.m at the CMU Soccer Complex. The Chippewas will stay home Sunday to play Buffalo at 1 p.m.