Chippewas Claim MAC Tournament Crown
MOUNT PLEASANT — In a season full of tight wins, the Central Michigan soccer team pulled out its biggest win in program history with a slim, 1-0 victory over Miami in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship on Sunday.

Claire Horton provided all the offense the Chippewas (16-3-3, 9-0-2 Mid-American) needed as they posted their nation-best 18th shutout this season to clinch their first MAC Tournament title in program history. The title gives CMU the MAC’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid, another first for the Maroon and Gold.

“I have a lot of emotions running through me right now,” head coach Tom Anagnost said. “The first one would be joy. I am so happy and proud of the kids for what they accomplished.”

The Chippewas got on the board just 14:01 into the contest when a failed RedHawk clear ended up on Horton’s foot just outside the attacking box on the right side. The freshman launched a shot that went over MU keeper Krista Pace’s head just inside the far post. The tally is Horton’s second of the season.

Central controlled play for the majority of the first half, owning a 5-2 advantage in shots and a 6-2 edge in corner kicks in the opening frame.

Miami came out with tremendous pressure in the final frame and nearly tied it up in the 48th minute when Krysti Clarke’s header beat Shay Mannino but hit the crossbar and stayed out.

After the early scare, the Maroon and Gold defense held the RedHawk attack at bay and began grinding precious seconds off the clock.

MU turned the pressure up a notch in the final minutes and created a glorious opportunity to tie the match with 2:19 remaining when CMU was called for a foul in its own 18-yard box, giving the RedHawks a late penalty kick.

Miami’s Allison Berkey, who scored on a penalty kick in the semifinals against Eastern Michigan on Friday, fired a shot to Mannino’s right that the MAC Defensive Player of the Year dove to turn aside. The Chippewa defense recovered off the save and cleared the rebound, stemming the RedHawks’ last attempt at a rally.

CMU outshot MU, 11-9, and held a 9-4 advantage in corner kicks.

Mannino turned aside all three shots she faced for her 16th shutout of the season and 28th of her career, breaking Anne Decker’s school record.

In addition to the team title, Horton, Mannino, Liesel Toth and Bailey Brandon were each placed on the MAC All-Tournament Team. The four were instrumental in helping CMU shut out all three of its opponents in its tournament run.

Central blanked Western Michigan, 1-0, in the quarterfinal round and eliminated three-time defending tournament champion Toledo in penalty kicks after the squads played 110 scoreless minutes.

The Chippewas will now wait to see who they draw in a first-round NCAA Tournament match. Pairings will be announced on ESPNews Monday at 8 p.m.