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2023 MACtion on the Pitch: Decision Day

Western Michigan are the 2023 MAC Regular Season Champions for women’s soccer!

Welcome to a special edition of MACtion on the Pitch, as we deliberate over the Decision Day action. The sixth seed and tournament seeding still had to be decided.

If you like a little bit of chaos, this is for you. Here’s what happened:

Northern Illinois at Bowling Green (Final: 1-0 BGSU)

While BG had already locked up a bye, Northern Illinois still had home field advantage to fight for. It was a back-and-forth game for the first 30 minutes, but the tide turned when NIU’s Madison Looby picked up a red card with 14:20 left in the first half. The Falcons would strike first just before halftime, as Lacee Bethea crossed a ball into the box, and found the head of Emma Stransky to put BG up 1-0. Stransky’s goal wound up being the only one of the game, as the Falcons ended conference play at 8-1-2, while NIU finished at 6-4-1.

Katie Cox shields off defenders in a 1-0 victory over NIU. The Falcons are the #2 seed in the tournament while NIU travels to Kent State for the quarterfinals.
Jill Borthwick/BGSU Athletics

Kent State at Buffalo (Final: 2-1 Kent State)

Stakes were on the line for this one, as the homestanding Buffalo was fighting for the sixth— and final— postseason spot against a Kent State seeking to win homefield advantage. The scoring would get started in the 38th minute, when Kent State’s Josie Morgan would net the opener with assists from Emma Barnett and Lua Suero. The halftime score would remain at 1-0 despite Buffalo leading 11-4 in shots. The Bulls would not go down easy. Katie Krohn would net the equalizing goal, her 13th of the year, with an assist from Sarah Woods. The Bulls couldn’t hold on, however, as Kent State would go back in front with 19 minutes remaining on a goal from Alisa Arthur. That score would hold, and Kent State would finish MAC play at 7-4. Buffalo ended MAC play at 4-4-3, and the preseason favorites were ultimately eliminated from a tournament berth.

The preseason favorites fell to Kent State 2-1 eliminating them from postseason contention.

Central Michigan at Ball State (Final: 2-0 Ball State)

Central Michigan, eliminated from MAC tournament contention, looked to play the spoiler to Ball State’s home-field quarterfinals hopes. Ball State got off to a quick start as Lexi Fraley would score just 7:53 into the game, with assists from Kaitlyn Fraser and Delaney Caldwell, putting the Cardinals up 1-0. Ball State would score once again right after the halftime break, with Fraley scoring her second of the day just 2:35 into the new half. Caldwell would notch her second assist of the game. With the 2-0 result at the final whistle, Ball State ended MAC play at 6-2-3, and clinched a home quarterfinal game. Central Michigan ended with a tough 1-7-3 MAC record.

The Cardinals celebrate a goal in a 2-0 victory over Central Michigan. Ball State hosts Ohio in the quarterfinal
Ball State Athletics

Miami at Eastern Michigan (Final: 4-0 Miami)

Miami went up 1-0 just 33 seconds in on an Haley Anspach goal with assists from Camber Hayes and Taylor Hamlett and never looked back, rolling EMU over from start to finish in this one. Hamlett would increase the Redhawk advantage to 2-0 with an assist from Hayes with 9:39 to go and Julia Kure put Miami a 3-0 lead with an assist from Makenna Morrison just over a minute later to give the RedHawks the halftime lead. Anspach, with an assist from Kylee Beinecke, put the cherry on top with about 11 minutes remaining in the game to secure the result. After starting 1-6, Miami ended MAC play on a four-game win streak to finish 5-6. Eastern Michigan would finish with a 1-8-2 record in MAC play. Despite the victory, Miami could not secure a spot in the postseason tournament due to other results around the league.

Akron at Ohio (Final: 3-0 Ohio)

While Akron was already eliminated from tournament contention, Ohio was still fighting for a spot in the dance. Ohio dominated Akron early, but couldn’t find the back of the net. That all changed with 1:48 left in the first half, as Izzi Boyd put the Bobcats up 1-0 with assists from Maia Kaufman and Jaimason Brooker to get on the board before the end of the first 45 minutes. The start of the second half was much of the same, with Ohio dominating in shots. Thankfully for the ‘Cats, the script looked much the same, as Boyd would score her second goal of the day in the 77th minute with an assist from Carsyn Prigge. Eve Berish added to the scoring account late to secure a 3-0 victory over the visiting Zips. After the final whistle, Akron ended MAC play with a 1-9-1 record. Ohio would finish 4-4-3 in MAC play, and tie with Buffalo. But remember that game in Week 6? The one where Celeste Sloma made that big penalty save to earn the win against the Bulls? That ultimately gave Ohio the tiebreaker— and the last spot in the tournament.

Ohio celebrates a goal in a 3-0 victory over Akron. Ohio travels to Ball State for the quarterfinals
Ohio Athletics

Toledo at Western Michigan (Final: 3-1 WMU)

Western had one goal in mind: Win, and you earn home field for the rest of the tournament. Toledo, meanwhile, was still fighting for a spot in the MAC tournament. Brooklyn Whitehead gave the Rockets a 1-0 lead with an assist from Emily Mann just four minutes into the game, putting the home side in an early hole. Western equalized in the 24th minute on a Jen Blitchok goal assisted by Jenna Blackburn, putting the halftime score at 1-1, though WMU did hold a 10-1 shot advantage. The shot advantage would hint at the story of the second half, as Blitchok would get a brace on an assist from Madison Cotta and Blackburn would net the Broncos’ third goal with assists from Cotta and Bria Telemaque to finish the game off. The final would be 3-1 in favor of the Broncos. With the win, the Broncos earned the regular season championship (first in program history), and the number one seed with an 8-0-3 MAC record. Toledo would be eliminated from postseason contention and end 2023 with a 4-6-1 MAC record.

Final Standings

(* - Earned MAC Tournament Berth, E - Eliminated from MAC Tournament Contention)

  1. *WMU (8-0-3)
  2. *BGSU (8-1-2)
  3. *Ball St (6-2-3)
  4. *Kent (7-4-0)
  5. *NIU (6-4-1)
  6. *Ohio (4-4-3)
  7. E - Buffalo (4-4-3)
  8. E - Miami (5-6-0)
  9. E - Toledo (4-6-1)
  10. E - CMU (1-7-3)
  11. E - EMU (1-8-2)
  12. E - Akron (1-9-1)

Upcoming Schedule

It’s tournament time! All six teams and seeds have been decided. As a reward for being regular season champions, Western Michigan earns a bye, and will host the semifinals and finals. Bowling Green earns the other bye.

Here’s the quarterfinal schedule:

Sunday, October 29th (Both games at 1 p.m. ET)

  • #6 Ohio at #3 Ball State, ESPN+ (subscription required)
  • #5 Northern Illinois at #4 Kent State, ESPN+ (subscription required)

Tournament Success

Here’s each teams best finish in the tournament:

Western Michigan: Winner (2003, 2013, 2015)
Bowling Green: Winner (2004, 2005, 2018-21*)
Ball State: Runner-up (2013, 2018, ‘20-21*)
Kent State: Winner (2016)
Northern Illinois: Winner (1997, 1998)
Ohio: Runner-up (1998, 2002)

(* - includes 2020-21 COVID-19 season)

Will any of the prior champions add another trophy? Will we have a first time champion? Stay tuned, because anything can happen in this tournament!