Dec. 1, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Earning its program record-tying 13th shutout of the season, the 11th-seeded Michigan State men's soccer team (14-5-3) outlasted sixth-seeded Georgetown (14-5-2) 1-0 on Sunday afternoon in Washington, D.C. It is the first time the Spartans have advanced the NCAA Tournament Round of Eight since 1968, when they earned a share of the NCAA Championship title.
A goal in the 28th minute from Adam Montague off a ball played in by Jay Chapman gave the Spartan defense all they needed to hold off the Georgetown attack and punch their ticket to the NCAA Elite Eight.
"It was a great team effort and a huge win for our program," said head coach Damon Rensing. "When you think about it, for us to go in and play a very good Georgetown team who is the sixth seed, (Ryan) Keener didn't play so we had to adjust our lineup, Adam Montague obviously scored the game-winning goal and is getting strong but still only played about 50 minutes. So for us to go on the road without a starting centerback and an All-Big Ten forward coming back to strength and be able to get that result was awesome. It's a testament to the character of these guys and this team. It's a huge win.
"Obviously, Georgetown is a very good team. They've got (Brandon) Allen and (Steve) Neumann up top, who are very dangerous. But we defended well. As a group, we put our body on the line. We defended the 18 very, very well. We weren't as good as maybe we would have liked to be on the ball, but we certainly created some dangerous chances and Tim (Kreutz) was unfortunate to not get the second goal, but I thought it was a great road result. In this tournament, it's about surviving and advancing. I've been in enough games where we've clearly been the better team and lost. Today perhaps Georgetown as a little better on the ball, but we had our chance, took it well and you have to give our guys credit for winning the game."
The Hoyas imposed pressure from the kickoff, forcing the Spartans to spread out defensively. After Georgetown put several players forward at the beginning of the contest, one of the Hoyas' strikers sent a dangerous shot on target that Zach Bennett fell on top of to keep out of the goal.
Able to gain possession 12 minutes into the game, the Spartans began to put numbers forward and create opportunities in the box. Though MSU earned a free kick from 20 yards out, the Georgetown wall of defenders kept any chance for the Spartans out of the Hoyas' territory.
Georgetown continued its offensive attack with solid ball movement, but the Spartan defense stepped up to thwart an onslaught of dangerous opportunities for the Hoyas.
In the 28th minute, the Spartans were able to put numbers forward with Jay Chapman sending a perfect cross over to Adam Montague who left-footed a target to the upper left-hand side of the net less than a minute after entering the game. Montague's fifth goal of the season gave the Spartans a huge 1-0 lead, marking the first time the Hoyas have trailed at home all season.
"(Ryan) Thelen got forward and played a great ball into Adam, who played it into Jay who ran off on a good one," said Rensing. "Jay tried to cut it back and couldn't get a shot off and he laid it to Adam who took it very well, obviously, and had a great strike to the upper corner. It was a great interchange and a great goal."
To begin the second half, the Spartans were able to break into the Georgetown territory as they attempted to cushion their lead, but the standout goaltending by the Hoyas kept sending it back to give Georgetown possession.
The Spartan defense relentlessly averted dangerous attacks from the Hoyas as Georgetown maintained ball possession in the MSU box trying to force the equalizer. However, Michigan State settled in to create chances of its own off of valuable restarts. Though they were unable to add to the lead, the Spartans did a great job of working down the clock throughout the second half.
With under 15 minutes left in the game, the Hoyas put numbers forward to try to obtain the tie and created chances in the MSU box. As the Spartans again stepped up to clear out the Georgetown attack, Tim Kreutz was able to get a foot on the ball and drive down the field to took a strong kick on the ball, but sent it just wide of the net. Despite their strong numbers, the Hoyas were unable to tie the game, sending MSU to the round of eight for the first time since 1968. It was only the second third home loss for Georgetown in the past two seasons.
"Georgetown had two very good seniors, Steve Neumann and Joey Dillon. They had great careers and did a great job for Georgetown. They were very good players today. I just want to congratulate them and their program on a great season and a great four years."
Stepping up in the net, Zach Bennett tallied seven saves on the day to improve his career total to 119, the fifth-best in MSU history. He also earned his 16th career shutout, also placing him at No. 5 in the Spartan record books.
"It's a huge win for the program," added Rensing. "It's the first time we've been to the quarterfinals in 45 years. To be quite honest, that's a testament to a lot of people. It starts with Joe Baum, who was a long time coach and started to get this going in the 70s and 80s. We started to see some success in the 90s and in the 2000s. I was fortunate to learn under him and be a part of it and continue this. It's been a slow progression, which I think is also a credit to Michigan State University, the Athletic Directors and President Simon that we've stayed the course. We've tried to create a culture here and continue to get better and this win is a culmination of a lot of those things all put into place today and to me, that's why it is so special."
MSU will await its next opponent as the team will play the winner of the Notre Dame and Wake Forest game to be played on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. The date and time of the Spartans next game will be determined following the conclusion of that contest.