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Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Junior Alexis Tice and the Rockets host Western Michigan in their MAC opener on Friday at 4:00 p.m.

Three-Time MAC Regular-Season Champion Toledo Begins League Slate This Weekend

Courtesy: Toledo Athletics
Release: 09/25/2013
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TOLEDO, OH - Toledo (3-5-0) will begin its journey to secure a record fourth Mid-American Conference regular-season crown on Friday, Sept. 27 against Western Michigan (2-3-2). The opening whistle is slated for 4:00 p.m. from Scott Park. UT is 8-7-1 all-time in MAC openers, including 7-4-1 under 13th-year head coach Brad Evans.

Friday’s league opener has been tabbed as "Kick It In Pink" from the corner of Hill Ave. and Parkside Blvd. A total of 100 "Kick It In Pink" T-shirts and 100 Kroger Rally Towels will be handed out prior to the match. Groups of at least 10 people can also purchase tickets at $1.00 each. Groups are advised to buy tickets all together or else the group promotion will not apply and are based on availability.

Following the Broncos’ contest, the four-time MAC Tournament champion Rockets will travel to Eastern Michigan (3-4-1) on Sunday, Sept. 29. Kickoff for that match is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. from Scicluna Field.

The Midnight Blue & Gold has been picked to capture the MAC West Division crown according to the coaches’ preseason poll, while WMU and EMU are tabbed to finish fifth and second in the division, respectively.

Last weekend, Toledo wrapped up its grueling non-league schedule by splitting a pair of home contests. UT claimed a 5-2 triumph against Missouri Valley Conference member Indiana State on Friday, followed by a 4-0 loss to Atlantic 10 power Dayton on Sunday.

In the victory over the Sycamores, four Rockets found the back of the net as they scored their most goals since tallying eight versus Ohio in the quarterfinals the 2011 MAC Tournament. Senior Rachel MacLeod fueled the offensive explosion with two goals and one assist, while freshman Kiersten Johnson had one score with one helper and freshman Shelby Antonacci and sophomore Megan Connor also tickled the twine in the win.

MacLeod continues to top Toledo’s scoring charts with 15 points (seven goals, one assist), followed by Johnson (two goals, one assist), junior Kirsten Catloth (one goal, one assist) and freshman Brooke Maletic (one goal, one assist) with five and three points, respectively. The 2011 MAC Offensive Player of the Year is currently pacing the league in goals and total points, as well as ranking tied for first in match-winning scores (2).

As a team, UT is tied for third in the conference in goals (13), fifth in total points (37) and helpers (11) and 11th in shots (70).

In the middle of the pitch, the Rockets continue to improve with each passing day enabling them to better dictate the pace of play. Sparking the play in the midfield has been senior Ashley Ross, junior Meghan Topolewski, junior Alexis Tice, sophomore Geri Siudzinski, sophomore Kika Hernandez and Connor. Siudzinski and Hernandez are currently tied for the team lead with two assists each, 10th-most in the MAC.

On defense, Toledo has the skill set to become one of the premier groups in the league. The backline is finally getting healthy and that will be key as MAC play begins. The group of senior Becky Rhodes, junior Rio James, junior Brooke Lawler, freshman Chelsea Thompson and Catloth have the ability to cover a lot of space in a short amount of time and limit good looks for the opposition at the goal from close range.

On the backline, sophomore Sam Tiongson (3-4-0 record) is blossoming into one of the top shot stoppers in the conference. Tiongson has seen action in 630:00 minutes, allowing 13 goals (1.86 GAA) while making 31 saves. She is currently fifth in the MAC in stops and tied for eighth in shutouts (1).

Western Michigan enters Friday’s league opener with a 2-3-2 overall mark and is coming off a 4-0 victory against Western Illinois on Sunday. Megan Moss leads their attack with five points (two goals, one assist), followed by Aubrey Sudomier (one goal, one assist), Kylie Nylen (one goal, one assist), Nicole Hatcliffe (one goal, one assist) and Ali Russo (three assists) with three points each. Russo is currently tied for fifth in the MAC in helpers. Between the posts, Michelle Watson has played all but eight-plus minutes and has registered 29 saves, a 1.09 GAA and three shutouts. Watson currently sits tied for second in the MAC in blankings, sixth in GAA and saves and seventh in save percentage (.784).

The all-time series between the division rivals is tied at 8-8-2, with Toledo winning four of the last six matchups (4-1-1 record). Last fall, the teams played to a 0-0 double-overtime draw in Kalamazoo. UT and WMU will be squaring off against one another in the MAC opener for a seventh time, with Toledo holding a 3-2-1 mark in the previous contests.

As a team, WMU is tied for first in the conference in shutouts (4), second in shots (122), tied for third in goals allowed (8), fifth in GAA (1.07), eighth in total points (25) and assists (9) and ninth in goals (8).

Eastern Michigan begins the MAC slate with a 3-4-1 overall ledger and most recently claimed a 5-1 victory against Stetson on Friday and a 4-0 triumph vs. Indiana State on Sunday. Angela Vultaggio and goalkeeper Megan McCabe sparked the dominating wins over the weekend and the duo was acknowledged as the MAC Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week, respectively. Vultaggio totaled three goals and one assist in the two matches, while McCabe allowed just one goal in 173 minutes of play. Overall this fall, Cara Cutaia (five goals, two assists) and Vultaggio (four goals, three assists) pace the squad with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Cutaia sits tied for second in the MAC in goals and total points, tied for fifth in shots (23) and tied for 10th in assists, while Vultaggio is third in shots (26) and tied for fourth in goals and total points. In net, McCabe has played all but six-plus minutes and has been credited with 44 stops and a 1.44 GAA. She currently ranks second in the league in saves, sixth in save percentage (.786) and seventh in GAA.

UT leads the all-time series against its divisional foe, 12-9-1, with the Rockets having won six of the last nine matchups (6-2-1 record). Last fall, EMU claimed a 3-0 victory at Scott Park during the regular season. The teams then squared off in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament with Toledo outlasting the Eagles, 2-1, on penalty kicks in Ypsilanti. The Rockets and EMU battled to a 1-1 tie through 110 minutes of play, before settling matters through PKs. Eastern Michigan hosts Northern Illinois on Friday before entertaining Toledo two days later.

As a team, Eastern Michigan is first in the conference in total points (54) and assists (20), second in goals (17), third in shots (121), sixth in goals allowed (12) and GAA (1.42) and tied for seventh in shutouts (1).

Following this weekend’s action, Toledo will host Buffalo on Friday, Oct. 4 and Akron on Sunday, Oct. 6. The Rockets’ match against the Bulls will start at 4:00 p.m., while the contest versus the Zips will begin at 1:00 p.m. at Scott Park. - Your Source for Rocket Sports
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