Nov. 17, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan State men’s soccer team fought a hard battle in the Big Ten Championship game on Sunday morning in Columbus, Ohio, but fell to Indiana 1-0. The Spartans are now 12-5-3 on the season heading into the NCAA Tournament. Also announced on Sunday, Fatai Alashe and Brent McIntosh were named to Big Ten All-Tournament Team. MSU will find out its first opponent in the NCAA selection show on Monday, Nov. 18 at 12 p.m. ET.
“I’m very proud of our team. I thought it was a dead-even game,” said head coach Damon Rensing. “We certainly had as many quality chances as Indiana. I think what it really came down to was a tale of two halves. We hit the post in the first half when we had the wind. Certainly, the team who had the wind had the advantage and had the better of play in each half. We had it and we were unfortunate not to get one. Their keeper made two or three very good saves and we hit the post. It was tough to play well in that first half and not have a goal to show for it.
“You have to give Indiana credit; they played well in the second half and they took their one chance and scored. That was the difference in the game. Our guys were unbelievable all week and all season. We played some really good soccer, did some very good things as a group and our second season starts tomorrow at noon.”
Both teams set a fast, physical pace from the beginning of the game, battling harsh weather conditions in Columbus. Fatai Alashe stepped back into defense in place of Ryan Keener, while Ben Myers made his third start of the season at midfield.
Michigan State did a good job of establishing possession in the first half, as Jay Chapman delivered dangerous balls into the box that the Spartans were unable to put on frame. MSU earned its most dangerous chance so far when Kyle Rutz shot a bullet that forced the Hoosier keeper to come up with a critical save for Indiana.
For the second-straight game, a battered Kevin Cope and the Spartan defense rose to the occasion to clear out multiple Indiana opportunities from MSU territory.
After a Ryan Thelen free kick, Alashe came up with a diving header that sailed just wide of the net. As an Indiana ball got just around Kevin Cope, Zach Bennett was able to save a side cross from the Hoosiers with under 15 minutes to play in the first half.
From just outside the 18, Chapman sent in a strike on the net that was again saved by the Indiana goalkeeper. Bennett punched away a dangerous corner kick from the Hoosiers, before he jumped up to grab another chance for Indiana.
Attempting to score before the end the half, Blake Skamiera got a foot on the ball before he sent a shot on frame bouncing off the right post. Though the Spartans outshot Indiana 10-5 in the first half, MSU was unable to capitalize on six shots on goal as the game went into halftime scoreless.
With the wind in Indiana’s favor in the second half, a throw in led to a Hoosier shot that was sent just over the cross bar. They continued to take advantage of the conditions, sending rockets on frame and earning nine corner kicks, while Michigan State drew none. Even still, the Spartan defense held off the opportunities for the Hoosiers to maintain a scoreless game.
Both teams put players forward to create opportunities, but despite solid ball movement, the Spartans were unable to put a shot on frame. The Hoosiers offense continued their attack, sending in back-to-back shots that were deflected off the MSU defenders.
Though Bennett was able to come up with back-to-back saves for the Spartans, he was unable to keep a strike from Jamie Vollmer out of the net in the 66th minute, giving Indiana a 1-0 lead.
The Spartans tried to keep the ball on the field, putting players forward and keeping with Indiana’s tempo, but was unable to take a shot to give MSU a chance. With under 15 minutes to play, Michigan State did a solid job of keeping the pressure on Indiana. Some solid ball movement created opportunities for the Spartans, but the combination of the wind and the Hoosier defense kept any shots out of the net.
In goal, Zach Bennett recorded seven saves on the day to improve his season total to 106, seventh-most in MSU history.
The Spartans will await the selection of their opponent in the NCAA Tournament until the selection show airs on Monday, Nov. 18 at 12 p.m. ET. The show will also be streamed live on NCAA.com.