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Spartan Soccer Celebrates Another Elite Eight Run

Jan. 12, 2018

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The buzz was felt all around campus. Fall of 2017 will be one that will be remembered for years to come for Michigan State Athletics. The wins seemed to be contagious as the MSU men’s soccer and volleyball teams both reached the Elite Eight, both the men and women’s cross country teams finished in the top 25 at the NCAA Championships, before the season was completed with another bowl victory for the football squad.

The trip to the Elite Eight by the Spartan men’s soccer team was the third time in the last five years. That streak of success means that this team knows what success feels like, but this team was special with that perfect mixture of youth and experience along with a new weapon added to the arsenal ... lights at DeMartin Stadium.

In the national rankings, Michigan State finished No. 6 in the final polls and was one of three Big Ten teams to finish in the top 10 along with Indiana (No. 2) and Wisconsin (No. 10).

Along with the success of the present-era Spartans, there was recognition for past Spartans, as MSU’s second match of the season was at St. Louis University in August. At halftime of that match, the Billikens and the Spartans honored the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Co-National Championship teams. MSU and SLU battled to a 0-0 overtime tie in the National Championship game that season. Members for both squads were in attendance at the game.

“Those guys paved the way for a lot of players that came through Michigan State, whether it was the 1970, ‘80s, ‘90s or today,” MSU head coach Damon Rensing said after that match. “We owe a lot of gratitude for those guys, I am happy that they got recognized. I certainly want to thank St. Louis University for being gracious hosts and acknowledging our players along with their players as well.”

The honoring of the past continued in September when former Spartan head coach and player Joe Baum was inducted in to the Michigan State Athletics Hall of Fame. As a player, he led MSU to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1967 and 1968. As the Spartans’ head coach, Baum was Big Ten Coach of the Year three times (1996, 2000, 2008) and mentored the Spartans to 22 winning seasons.

“It was really cool to see Joe Baum get inducted into the Michigan State Hall of Fame,” Rensing said. “I think he’s had a huge impact on not just the soccer program, but I think the entire athletic department. I think he’s somebody that instills the bond for a lot of alums because he was a coach here for 32 years, he was a mentor of mine, so to start the season off with that I think it puts some things into perspective, but also gives you some motivation to try to know what you’re representing,” Rensing said.

The 2017 season began much like the 2016 campaign ended, taking on SIU Edwardsville as the Spartans opened the season with the team that ended the previous year. MSU stopped the Cougars in the 2017 season opener by a score that become familiar, 1-0. Michigan State would go on to win seven of its 13 games by the same 1-0 margin. On August 27, Michigan State completed a very special opening weekend against St. Louis in a game that honored the 1967 Co-National Championship teams from MSU and SLU. The future of Spartan soccer honored the past as MSU stopped St. Louis, 2-0, to improve to 2-0 on the young season.

“That’s the goal I know our players come in here and we want to try to get back to trying to win a national championship. So I think you see that and that again puts it in perspective as motivation for the guys to try to get there and I think that’s in the background a good selling point. I think the fact that we’re at a program where there’s been two national championships, that shows that it can be accomplished here, so I think that’s also been good to put in the front of our guys as far as motivation,” Rensing added.

MSU ended the first month of the season with its first-ever home game under the lights of DeMartin Stadium. The Spartans opened the home campaign with a then school-record 3,500 fans packed DeMartin as Michigan State stopped Dartmouth, 1-0, on Sept. 1 behind a goal from junior forward DeJuan Jones.

Another milestone in the Spartans’ memorable season was retaining the Big Bear Trophy with a thrilling overtime classic against Michigan in Ann Arbor on Sept. 17. In the first-ever meeting when both teams were ranked, then-No. 6 MSU out-lasted No. 18 Michigan, 1-0, behind another game-winning goal from Jones.

During a stretch of six-straight games against ranked opponents, Michigan State went 4-1-1 with wins against No. 19, Bowling Green, No. 18 Michigan and No. 16 Ohio State, with a tie against No. 3 Maryland and a loss to No. 24 Akron. The Zips would go to reach the NCAA College Cup Semifinals.
After a disappointing loss in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament, the Spartans rebounded with an impressive run in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan State was the No. 6 seed in the tournament, earning a first-round bye. In the second round, MSU hosted Virginia Tech and behind a trio of first-half goals, defeated the Hokies, 3-0. The Spartans then took on in-state rival and 10th-seeded Western Michigan for the second time. MSU used a second-half goal from senior captain Jimmy Fiscus to come out triumphant against the Broncos, 2-1. For the second time this season, MSU and Indiana met, this time in Bloomington. After an early Sierakowski goal, the Hoosiers tied the score in the second half. For the second-straight season, Michigan State had its NCAA Tournament run halted by penalty kicks, as IU edged MSU, 3-2.

The magical season ended with the Spartans finishing with a 13-3-4 record and another trip to the Elite Eight. MSU said goodbye to six seniors in Brac Centala, Jimmy Fiscus, Ken Krolicki, Michael Marcantognini, Ryan Scott and Phil Stair.

“Certainly the combination of our three captains of Ryan Scott, who is really underestimated in his leadership, maybe because he didn’t play as many minutes, but his leadership was very good. I think he knew the pulse of the team, and I thought he did a great job of leading by example but also behind-the-scenes vocally. Brad Centala was a great leader by example. He’s that calming, everyone likes guy. And then Jimmy Fiscus was our emotional leader and never give up until the last second. Those guys were great leaders.

“I look at Kenny Krolicki, Phil Stair and Michael Marcantognini too, our seniors. Kenny was just a warrior on the field, I mean, you never questioned his. I think Phil and Michael were willing and ready to do whatever was asked of them, so I really give those guys credits. I think our juniors, guys like DeJuan Jones, Ryan Sierakowski, Connor Corrigan, Jimmy Hague, they kind of came in and were very good supporting leaders. So we’ll look to those guys, along with others to be our leaders in the future.”

Spartans by the Numbers

  • The Spartans allowed only 13 goals this season as goalkeeper Jimmy Hague and the tough MSU backline ended the season with a 0.62 GAA.
  • Due in part to the amazing student section known as the Red Cedar Rowdies, Michigan State was an impressive 16-1-4 in its last 21 games at DeMartin Stadium. Last season, MSU set a school-record with most wins at home going 9-0-2. In 2017, the Spartans were 5-0-2 at home during the regular season. Michigan State suffered its first loss at home in the Big Ten Tournament against Ohio State on Nov. 5. Prior to the OSU loss, the Spartans last loss at DeMartin was against Indiana on Nov. 4, 2015.
  • Junior forward Ryan Sierakowski reached the 20-point mark for the second-straight season, ending the year with a team-leading nine goals and three assists for 21 points. Fellow junior forward DeJuan Jones was second in scoring wtih seven goals and six assists for 20 points.
  • MSU went 7-0 in 1-0 contests.
  • MSU’s five B1G wins ties a school record for most conference wins, matching the 2008 squad. The Spartans 5-0-3 record is the first time that Michigan State has got unbeaten in Big Ten action, finishing with a 5-0-3 record.
  • The Spartans finished the season 15th in the nation attendance, averaging 1,810 fans per game. A total of 18,101 fans packed DeMartin Stadium, including a school-record 4678 fans when MSU played Maryland under the lights on Sept. 22.

Honoring the Green and White

Jimmy Fiscus
  • United Soccer Coaches Second-Team All-American
  • Third-Team TopDrawerSoccer.com Best XI
  • United Soccer Coaches First-Team All-Midwest Region
  • First-Team All-Big Ten
  • United Soccer Coaches First-Team Scholar All-American
  • CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-District
  • Top Drawer Soccer Top 100 (28)

Jimmy Hague
  • First-Team TopDrawerSoccer.com Best XI
  • United Soccer Coaches First-Team All-Midwest Region
  • Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year
  • First-Team All-Big Ten
  • United Soccer Coaches Second-Team Scholar All-American
  • Top Drawer Soccer Top 100 (18)

Ryan Sierakowski
  • Second-Team All-Big Ten
  • Top Drawer Soccer Top 100 (98)

DeJuan Jones
  • United Soccer Coaches Third-Team All-Midwest Region
  • Second-Team All-Big Ten

Brad Centala
  • CoSIDA First-Team Academic All-District

Ken Krolicki
  • United Soccer Coaches First-Team All-Midwest Region
  • United Soccer Coaches First-Team Scholar All-American
  • First-Team All-Big Ten
  • Top Drawer Soccer Top 100 (66)

Giuseppe Barone
  • Top Drawer Soccer Top 100 (87)

Looking Ahead
The future for the Spartans remains bright as Michigan State returns 14 letterwinners from last season, including Hague, Sierakowski and Jones.

Ken Krolicki is looking to make a name for himself on the next level. Krolicki is currently competing at the 2018 adidas MLS Player Combine. Players have been split up into four teams (Nemeziz, Predator, X and Tango) with every team playing three matches from Jan. 13-17. All matches will be played at Orlando City Stadium and they will be streamed on MLSsoccer.com.

“Kenny playing at Michigan State and playing all these top teams will pay off for him. He is going to go down there and play against a lot of people he has played against and excelled in those environments. He should feel confident and excited to show them what he can do,” Rensing said.

The 2018 MLS SuperDraft will take place on January 19 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia.



 

 

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