Spartans Top Western Michigan, 2-1, to Advance to NCAA Elite Eight
MSU advances to the Elite Eight for the third time in five years.
EAST LANSING, Mich. -
Michigan State men's soccer advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament in thrilling fashion on Saturday night after a nail-biter against No. 10-seed Western Michigan, coming from behind to defeat the Broncos, 2-1 in front of over 1,500 fans at DeMartin Stadium.
"First off, I need to calm down here a little bit, but first off I just want to congratulate Chad Wiseman and Western on a great season," Michigan State head coach Damon Rensing said. "It's always tough when these games end like this, but he's definitely up for one of the coach of the year awards, and they've had a great run. We've had great battles with these guys over the last four years, and they're a class act. I wish them and their seniors all the best."
While Michigan State held possession in the early minutes of the game, the Broncos struck first in the 25th minute of the game when Pepe Martinez fired a shot through the Spartan defenders and found the back of the net past redshirt-junior goalkeeper Jimmy Hague.
The Spartans battled back before the end of the first half, tying the game with a family effort from the Barone brothers. In the 43rd minute, junior forward Hunter Barone brought the ball up the field before passing to sophomore midfielder Giuseppe Barone on his left side. G. Barone fired a quick pass back to H. Barone, and the forward guided the ball past Bronco traffic to even the score at 1-all.
The game-winning goal came in the 54th minute of the game, after junior defender Connor Corrigan took a free kick encroaching on the Western Michigan zone. Junior defender John Freitag redirected the ball toward senior defender Jimmy Fiscus, who got a foot on as the ball bobbled out of WMU's goalkeeper's grip and past the goal line to give the Spartans their first lead of the game.
"As far as our guys tonight, I don't think I could be much more proud. The way we played the game tonight in very tough conditions. It was an emotional game, and I thought that we had the combination of playing good soccer along with dealing with a competitive, emotional environment," Rensing said. "We've got to be able to play on that edge and still execute and yet we went down a goal, so it certainly didn't look like the day was going our way. With these leaders and these players stuck together and found a way to win a game in these tough, when I say conditions the field was awesome. Our grounds people are the best, but I mean it's just an emotional rivalry game. I thought we were able to do both so certainly want to commend our players, and we are ecstatic about getting to our third quarter final in five years. I think that's a testament to our program, our support that we get from our administration and our university."
MSU held on to the lead through the gritty conditions, with both teams combining for 25 fouls. Western Michigan was issued two yellow cards, while Michigan State was issued three in the competitive atmosphere.
"I would lastly like to thank the state of Michigan crowd that came out. There was an awesome amount of people here. We had a great Thanksgiving weekend crowd, probably from all parts of the state, rooting for either Western and Michigan State," Rensing said. "Our fans are great. We really appreciate their support, and what an awesome atmosphere. Thanks to Craig Bush. We got to play this game at night under the lights which I thought added more to that atmosphere."
The Spartans advance to the Elite Eight and will play the No. 2-seeded Indiana on Friday, December 1 at 7 p.m. in Bloomington, Indiana.