Spartans Advance to Big Ten Championship Finals
Nov. 14, 2008
MADISON, Wis. -
The Michigan State men's soccer team advanced to the finals of the Big Ten Championship, defeating Northwestern, 1-0, on a muddy field Friday (Nov. 14) afternoon in Madison, Wis. No. 1 seed MSU, 12-5-1, will play either Indiana or Michigan on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET for the Big Ten Championship.
"That was a typical Big Ten men's soccer game," said MSU head coach Joe Baum. "It was a real battle and a defensive struggle, especially with the bad pitch, and we're just happy we came out ahead."
Despite outshooting the Wildcats just 6-5 in the first half, the Spartans' forwards created several quality scoring chances.
Sophomore Jake Fullerton had the Spartans' best chance early on in the 12th minute when he directed a header toward the net but Northwestern goalkeeper Misha Rosenthal deflected the ball just wide.
The Spartans kept the pressure on in the 23rd minute when sophomore Jeff Ricondo found senior Doug DeMartin inside the penalty area but his shot sailed just high of the net. Later on, freshman Cyrus Saydee had what looked to be a sure goal from just six yards out but his attempt was blocked by Rosenthal's outstretched hand.
All the Spartans' hard work finally paid off in the 51st minute when an aggressive Wildcat defense fouled Ben Pirmann in the penalty area, leading to a Michigan State penalty kick. DeMartin made no mistake, burying it for his 16th goal of the season to give MSU a 1-0 lead.
The MSU lead seemed to energize the Wildcats as they fired four consecutive shots in a seven-minute span. Spartan goalkeeper Avery Steinlage made his biggest save of the game to that point in the 59th minute when he turned away Northwestern's Matt Eliason from in close.
Northwestern had several quality chances to tie the game in the final minutes. The first came in the 83rd minute when a free kick from just outside the penalty area just missed the net. Minutes later off a restart, the Spartans' Josh Rogers made the defensive play of the day when Carl Pett had an open net from 25 yards out, but a diving Rogers knocked the ball away with his head.
"What a play by Josh," Baum said. "I can't believe we played the ball back. We made a mistake there, but Josh realized that there was danger and he got back and made a great play and really saved the game for us."
Steinlage finished the game with three saves for the Spartans and has now run his shutout streak to 605:30 having not allowed a goal since an Oct. 15 win over UIC.
The Spartans (12-5-1) are now 7-0-1 in their last eight matches.
"We're on a high and you can definitely tell," said DeMartin. "It shows in how we are playing right now - the kids are confident."
at the official