Spartans Claim First-Ever Big Ten Men's Soccer Tournament Championship
Nov. 14, 2004
ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The Michigan State men's soccer team defeated Northwestern, 1-0, to win the Big Ten Tournament championship for the first time in school history on Sunday (Nov. 14). The Spartans had reached the championship game on two previous occasions in 1996 and 2001. MSU improves to 12-6-1 with the win, while Northwestern falls to 14-5-2.
"I felt the team stepped up and played with a lot of heart," said MSU head coach Joe Baum. "We have a philosophy that we win with team defense, and I think we did that in giving up only one goal in three games this weekend."
Senior forward Jordan Gruber (Beverly Hills) scored the game-winning goal in the 58th minute after dribbling a long serve from freshman defender Rauwshan McKenzie (Hoffman Estates, Ill.) and beating NU goalkeeper Justin Pines to tap in a wide-open shot from six yards out.
"Rauwshan (McKenzie) played an amazing ball right into my run and their goalie tried to pick up the ball outside of the box," Gruber said. "Both of us fell and I just happened to get up faster than him to put the ball in the empty net."
Northwestern had three scoring opportunities within the first 15 minutes of the game, but was stopped each time by sophomore goalkeeper Jason Tillman (Brighton). The MSU defense led by senior Kellen Kalso (Oxford) and McKenzie controlled the play and kept the NU attack away from the Spartan goal for most of the game. Tillman finished the game with six saves for Michigan State.
Junior midfielder Ryan McMahen (Munster, Ind.) came close to putting the Spartans on the board in the 24th minute, but the shot sailed wide left of the goal.
The Wildcats' best chance to tie the game came in the 89th minute on a header from Brad North, but Tillman made a high punching save to preserve the win for MSU.
McMahen earned tournament offensive MVP honors and Tillman was named tournament defensive MVP. Both players were named to the all-tournament team.
The Spartans now await their first round opponent for the NCAA Tournament. The pairings will be announced on ESPNews on Monday, Nov. 15 at 4 p.m.
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