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Spartans Earn First Program Win Over Northern Illinois, 2-0

Ryan Keener headed in his first goal of the season, fourth of his career.

Sept. 28, 2013

Box Score

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - Recording the fifth shutout of the season, the Michigan State men's soccer team defeated Northern Illinois, 2-0 on Saturday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium. With the win, the Spartans improved to 5-1-1, while the Huskies now own a 3-6-0 record. MSU turned in two second-half goals by Jay Chapman and Ryan Keener to earn the first win over Northern Illinois in program history.

"I think we were a little sluggish maybe coming out of the game against Creighton and Northern Illinois had a full week to prepare; that's certainly a factor in any college game," said head coach Damon Rensing. "All we had to do was play better. I thought our guys started to come out in the second half and create some stuff and kept the tempo up. To our credit, we limited some of their chances and in the second half, we didn't let them get going too much. I was really happy that once we got the first goal, our guys didn't let up. We pushed and got the second. I thought we did a good job of finishing the game off in the last 15 minutes."

Northern Illinois came out strong, with two early shots saved by Zach Bennett. The Huskies picked up an early foul leading to a free kick by Conerty, but NIU kicked it out of the box before the Spartans could make it an opportunity on goal.

After both teams shared possession, Jay Chapman broke away to get a great chance for the Spartans, but the shot was blocked. Less than a minute later, he got a header just wide of the goal.  A dangerous free kick from Northern Illinois led to a shot and a huge save by Bennett. The Huskies followed up with another shot wide of the net off a restart.

Michigan State focused on its defensive play throughout the first half, chasing down chances for the Huskies and keeping them out of the box. Both Chapman and Tim Kreutz pushed for a Spartan goal, both shooting over the net before Ryan Thelen got a great opportunity that was just tipped off the Northern Illinois goalkeeper's hands to earn a corner kick. With under 15 minutes left in the first half, an MSU throw in led to multiple shots in the box that were kept out by Northern Illinois.

Both teams were pressing for a goal before the half, forcing Bennett to come up with a major save off a dangerous shot on goal from the Huskies. In the 40th minute, a Northern Illinois shot bounced off the post before Bennett saved a header from going into the back of the net. Conerty also attempted to put the Spartans on the board, with a shot just over the bar with under five minutes left. A last minute header from Montague had the same result before the end of the scoreless half.

To start the second half, both teams exchanged free kicks, with two shots on target sent in from Conerty and saved by the Huskies' keeper. A corner kick from Thelen led to an MSU foul in the box and another opportunity taken away.

Adam Montague, who helped create a lot of chances for the Spartans in the first half, had a shot on goal set up by Chapman, but the North Illinois keeper saved it from going in the net.

After MSU maintained possession with back-to-back opportunities, a corner kick from Conerty set up a bullet shot in by Chapman off an assist by Fatai Alashe in the 70th minute. Putting the first points on the board and giving MSU a 1-0 lead, Chapman scored his first goal of the season and fifth of his career.

Returning to the game twice after getting stitched up and having to change jerseys on two separate occasions, Ryan Keener headed a goal into the back of the net off a corner kick from Thelen to put the Spartans up 2-0 in the 75th minute. It marks Keener's first goal of the season, fourth of his career.

"It was pretty crazy with the timing of it," said Keener. "Thelen put a great ball in there. I asked our trainer before I went out there again what would happen if the ball hit my head again and he said it would probably explode. But the ball went up and I said to myself, `Yeah, that's the one.'"

Keener would leave the game for good after his goal to re-stitch a cut above his left eyebrow.

"That's Keener, he's a warrior out there," Rensing said. "He exemplifies putting the team first and putting his body on the line. I wouldn't expect any less from him."

Jerome Cristobal stepped in for Keener, who had to leave the game three different times. He helped sustain the defense and hustled to make strong opportunities for the Spartans.

"I give Jerome a lot of credit," said Rensing. "He stepped up and did some very good defensive things and added some stuff to the attack. He created a corner and along with Thelen and Fatai (Alashe), held the fort down."

Kreutz tried to make it three with a dangerous shot on goal, but it was saved again by the Huskie keeper with under 11 minutes left. He charged for another shot, just wide of the net in the 78th minute.

In goal, Bennett made seven saves on the day and earned his fifth shutout of the season, the eighth of his career. He improved his GAA to 0.55 and Sv% to .875 on the season.

 With a short turnaround, the Spartans will be back on the road this week as they travel to face University of Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. ET.



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