M. Soccer Begins Spring Schedule, Look Back on Successful 2010
March 22, 2011
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State men's soccer team kicked off its 2011 spring season on Friday, March 19 with a closed scrimmage against Western Michigan. MSU will begin their outdoor spring schedule when they host the University of Detroit on Saturday, March 26, with kickoff slated for 12:00 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium. The spring season will help the Spartans build off the success of last season and prepare them for the challenging schedule they will face during in 2011.
As the spring schedule starts, let's take a look back at Michigan State's magical 2010 fall season.
Michigan State's 13-7-2 overall record for 2010, the fifth consecutive season with 11 or more wins, all started with the dramatic 4-3 overtime win over Maryland. The wild victory saw three goals in the final 90 seconds of regulation and a game-saving stop with four seconds remaining by senior goalkeeper Avery Steinlage (Grand Haven, Mich.) sent the teams into overtime. A header from junior Domenic Barone (Grand Rapids, Mich.) in the 96th minute gave MSU the golden goal needed to upset the then-ranked No. 6 team in the country.
The 2010 home slate began with tough matchups against No. 16 Providence and Niagara, but the Spartans handled the pressure well with a combined eight goals and only one allowed in the weekend. Michigan State scored twice in each half of the home opener to put MSU over Providence 4-0. Four different Spartans saw the back of the net, including junior midfielder Mark Barone (Grand Rapids, Mich.), whose first goal of the season proved to be the game-winner. Steinlage and junior goalkeeper Jeremy Clark (Sterling Heights, Mich.) shared the first team shutout, with Steinlage notching his second win of the year. Michigan State followed up the win over Providence with another four-goal victory against Niagara. With two goals and an assist, senior midfielder Spencer Thompson (Shelbytown, Mich.) had a hand in three of the four goals in the tilt and goalkeepers Steinlage and Clark made a combined seven saves while only allowing one to pass through.
The Spartans carried the momentum from their successful home weekend as they headed into the Big Ten/Big East Challenge with Marquette and Notre Dame. Junior midfielder Cyrus Saydee's (Lansing, Mich.) first goal of the season was also the game-winner in the 1-0 win over Marquette and Stienlage stopped seven attempts by the Eagles to earn his first shutout of the year. Against Notre Dame, Saydee and classmate Barone were in sync as Barone notched both goals in the 2-0 win with both assists coming from Saydee. Steinlage made six saves in the contest, giving him his second consecutive shutout and extending his scoreless stretch to 336:24 minutes in four appearances.
For the next month Michigan State would win six of its eight games, four of which were shutouts, and the only loses were by one goal to both No. 19 Ohio State and Penn State. In that span, the Spartan offense took a hit when senior midfielder Jeff Ricondo (Wheaton, Ill.) suffered a collarbone injury in the 3-0 win over Wisconsin. Ricondo, who owned three goals and four assists at the time, would sit out for the next month recovering from the injury.
With an 11-3-0 record and wins over top-ranked teams like Maryland, Providence and Notre Dame, the team seemed headed in the right direction - until a physical 3-0 loss to Indiana (Oct. 24). Sophomore center back Kevin Cope (Canton, Mich.) and senior fullback Jake Fullerton (Naperville, Ill.) were two causalities of the Indiana tilt.
As the 2010 season was winding down, the competition was heating up. The Spartans faced some of the toughest programs in the country, as three of MSU's last four opponents were in the top 15 of the RPI, including Indiana, Akron, and Michigan, who went on to win the Big Ten Tournament. The Spartans, who were already missing injured co-captain Ricondo and senior midfielder Nosa Iyoha (Ann Arbor, Mich.), witnessed a shift in momentum after losing several key players like Cope and Fullerton from the lineup. With a combined 25 complete games missed by his preferred starting side, Head Coach Damon Rensing attributes MSU's late-season struggles to a season plagued with injuries.
"The strength of our schedule was a challenge for us this year, but that was by design," noted head coach Damon Rensing, who was in his second season at the helm of the MSU program. "Getting wins at tough schools like Maryland, Notre Dame and Butler says a lot about our team's abilities and the passion of our players," Rensing said.
Michigan State was winless in their final five games of the regular season, but that does not paint the full picture of how hard the team was battling. The Spartans fell to eventual National Champion Akron 1-0, and fell in overtime at Michigan, 3-2, after battling back from a 2-0 deficit, and tied Milwaukee, 1-1, in the regular-season finale. The streak extended into the post-season, as the squad fell to Michigan (2-1) in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.
Despite a late-season skid with significant members of the starting lineup on the sidelines, MSU's resume and strength of schedule was when they received a bid to the 2010 NCAA Tournament. With their fourth consecutive tournament appearance, the seniors became the first class in school history to earn a bid all four years while wearing the Green and White. Three of those seniors, Thompson, Ricondo and Fullerton, contributed eight goals to the team's 41, the most State has scored in a single season since 2001.
MSU began their 14th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance at home against intra-state rival Oakland, which earned an automatic bid after winning the Summit League Championship. Domenic Barone notched both goals, the first coming off a penalty kick, in the 2-0 victory over the Golden Grizzlies. Steinlage, a pre-season nominee for the Hermann Trophy watch list, posted four saves to secure the shutout. During their second contest of the NCAA Tournament against 13th-seeded Butler, the Spartans received another jolt of energy with the return of senior co-captain Ricondo. After a month of sitting on the sidelines with a broken collarbone, Ricondo entered the contest with just 10 minutes remaining on the clock. Ricondo managed to elude a defender and buried a shot from about 25 yards out into the left-side netting in the 85th minute, pushing the Spartans past the previously-undefeated Bulldogs and sending them to the Sweet 16.
MSU faced off with No. 4 seed North Carolina in the third round the Spartans' first appearance in the Sweet 16 since sharing the National Championship in 1968. Played in Chapel Hill, N.C., the weekend after Thanksgiving, the two teams battled though 64 scoreless minutes before Michigan State jumped on the board with a goal from junior forward Cyrus Saydee. The home team countered with a marker with less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation, sending the game into overtime. The teams were deadlocked after two overtimes, so penalty kicks decided who would advance into to the Elite Eight. UNC's fifth shooter, Enzo Martinez buried the ball into the Spartan net to break the 4-4 shootout tie, subsequently ending Michigan State's season.
For Coach Rensing and his players, the 2010 season ended sooner than they had hoped, but he is still proud of what his team was able to achieve this year. Michigan State finished the season with the third-best record in the Big Ten with one of the strongest schedules in the country -nine of their 18 regular-season opponents were in the top 20 RPI. The Spartans finished ninth in the final RPI ranking, which was second in the Big Ten - and as a conference, the Big Ten was the top-ranked conference in the nation in 2010.
Several Spartans were also honored for individual success. Senior center back Colin Givens (Troy, Mich.) and Spencer Thompson were selected to the All-Big Ten First Team, while Domenic Barone, Cope and Steinlage were named to the All-Big Ten Second Team. Freshman defender Josh Barens (Diamondale, Mich.) earned a spot on the All-Freshman Team and Ricondo received the Sportsmanship Award.
As the team begins preparations for the fall, two Spartans will move on and begin the next chapter of their soccer careers. Seniors Thompson and Givens earned the ultimate post-season award: being drafted by Major League Soccer teams. On Jan. 13, Givens was selected by the Colorado Rapids in the second round, 36th overall, of the MLS SuperDraft and is now preparing for his MLS preseason camp. On Jan. 18, Thompson joined Givens when he heard his name called in the second round, 26th overall, in the MLS Supplemental Draft. Thompson was selected by Toronto FC, the team with which he and Givens trained the summer before their senior year.
The seven graduating seniors are leaving behind a legacy of strong performances and high standards, but five high school players have signed National Letters of Intent to enroll at Michigan State for the 2011 season. Coach Rensing is confident that these skilled athletes will maintain the tradition of success that is the Michigan State soccer program.
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