Oct. 28, 2012
East Lansing, Mich. -- - Michigan State got a hat trick from freshman Jay Chapman - the first three goals of his Spartan career - and played a sound defensive game in knocking off No. 16 Indiana, 3-1, on Sunday afternoon. Ryan Thelen and Adam Montague each had two assists on the day as MSU improved to 8-7-1 overall and 3-2-0 in Big Ten play.
The Spartan victory put them right in the thick of the Big Ten race entering the final weekend of play. League-leading Penn State squandered a 4-1 lead and finished in a 4-4 tie with Ohio State on Sunday, which means that the league's regular-season champion will not be decided until the final weekend. A scoreless deadlock between Northwestern and Wisconsin was Sunday's other result.
Heading into the final weekend, Penn State has completed its Big Ten regular-season games atop the standings with a 3-1-2 record (11 points), followed by Northwestern at 3-1-1 (10 points). The Spartans and Indiana are tied for third at 3-2-0 (nine points), and Michigan is in fifth with seven points (2-2-1). Indiana and Northwestern play Thursday in Bloomington, while the Spartans play at Michigan in a battle for the Big Bear Trophy next Saturday. Each Big Ten victory is worth three points in the league standing, while a tie is worth one.
The Spartans must now root for Indiana to defeat or earn a tie with the Wildcats - that would set up a situation where with a victory over Michigan, MSU could either claim a share of the Big Ten title (if Indiana wins) or win it outright if the Hoosiers and Wildcats play to a draw.
The Spartans certainly did their part to put themselves in this position with Sunday's win, as they were solid in all aspects of the game and controlled long stretches in the game against the Hoosiers. Indiana, which had allowed just 10 goals in 16 previous games this season, watched the Canadian freshman Chapman - who did not record his first collegiate goal until today's first half - put three past Indiana senior keeper Luis Soffner, who ranked second in the Big Ten with a 0.60 save percentage entering the contest.
It was the Hoosiers who had the first grade-A chance on the afternoon, as Nikita Kotlov's put a point-blank shot on net that was saved by Spartan keeper Zach Bennett. The Spartans responded with an impressive offensive chance of their own in the 21st minute, as Cody Henderson's offering was headed for the right upper 90, but Soffner got a hand on it and punched it over the goal cage.
In the 23rd minute, the Spartans got their first of the afternoon, which allowed them to take a 1-0 lead into the intermission. . Ryan Thelen had the ball in the right corner and pushed the it back out to Chapman, and he buried a high, hard shot from 22 yards out.
The Hoosiers pressed for an equalizer before the intermission, as Eriq Zavaleta put a shot on net that Bennett corralled with relative ease with just over five minutes remaining in the period. The Hoosiers had eight corner kicks in the first half, but MSU's defense was on its best game, clearing those balls out of danger. The Spartans had five corners in the first half and seven on the day total.
In the 51st minute, the Spartans doubled their lead as Chapman was able to break away in the midfield and streaked up the left side all alone. Without a defender within 15 yards, he was able to carry the ball into the box, got the keeper to commit, and tapped a soft kick into the right side of the net. Adam Montague and Fatai Alashe were credited with assists on the play.
Ryan Keener - one of MSU's standouts all day on the defensive end - had a chance to push the lead to three goals in the 68th minute. With the ball loose in the penalty area, Keener's adept footwork got the ball free from the Indiana defenders, and he was able to get a shot on net, but Soffner snagged it for the save.
Despite Keener getting denied a third marker for the Spartans, Chapman had one more piece of magic in his game, as Montague fed him at the top of the penalty area. He maneuvered around a defender and completed his hat trick at 75:53.
Just 90 seconds later, the Spartan shutout was over, as Zavaleta's shot from 15 yards rolled beneath the outstretched arms of Bennett for his team- and Big Ten-best 15th goal of the season.
That would cap the scoring on the afternoon, as the Spartans limited the Hoosiers to just one corner kick and six shots in the second half. Bennett, MSUs freshman keeper, finished his afternoon with four saves, earning his fifth victory in six games and lowered his GAA to 0.67. His shutout streak was snapped with Zavaleta's goal in the 78th minute, a streak of 300:11 without a goal allowed.
MSU, which has won five of its last six games and is riding a season-best three-game winning streak, will have another tall task when the Spartans host No. 2 Akron on Wednesday at DeMartin Stadium. With a win over Hartwick on Saturday, Akron sealed its eighth consecutive MAC soccer title. Last year, MSU ended the Zips' 48-game home unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory.