June 25, 2014
EAST LANSING, Michigan - Michigan State men's soccer head coach Damon Rensing released the Spartans' schedule for the 2014 season on Wednesday. The schedule will feature six teams that played in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, including both national finalists, and a total of eight teams that posted a winning record last season.
"We are really excited about the 2014 schedule" said Rensing. "Once again it will rank up there as one of the toughest in the country. Anytime you play at both the defending national champion and the national runner-up, you have a challenging schedule. The very tough non-conference schedule will certainly prepare us for the Big Ten conference season, which is always one of, if not the best conference in the country."
The 2014 season will begin with two exhibition contests. The Spartans will travel to IPFW to face Washington on Thursday, Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. The Huskies finished the season No. 5 nationally after a trip to the NCAA Elite Eight and a 16-2-4 overall record. Michigan State will then host Division III Stevens Institute of Technology on Sunday, Aug. 24 at 12 p.m. The Ducks, who are coached by Rensing's brother Devin, were 17-2-1 last year, allowing only nine goals all season, and made it to the second round of the NCAA Division III Championship.
"We are really excited to open up the exhibition season in Fort Wayne for the Shindigz National Soccer Festival vs. Washington," said Rensing. "They are well-coached, will be a top-ranked team and will provide us an early opportunity to see where we are at."
The regular season kicks off with a pair of home games to end the month of August. Michigan State opens with SMU on Friday, Aug. 29 at 5 p.m. and follows with Florida International on Sunday, Aug. 31 at 1 p.m.
"The home schedule will be very exciting," added Rensing. "Playing at DeMartin Stadium is special for our guys. One match that I think our fans and Red Cedar Rowdies will really enjoy, will be kicking off the home regular season schedule against perennial power SMU right before the football opener against Jacksonville State."
The Spartans hit the road for the first time on Friday, Sept. 5, heading to Horizon League regular season champion UIC for an 8 p.m. ET start. The Flames were 16-4-0 last season. Michigan State then returns home to face Valparaiso on Thursday, Sept. 11 at 5 p.m. and Loyola University Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 14 at 2:30 p.m.
The Big Ten schedule opens with a showcase match at national runner-up Maryland on Friday, Sept. 19, in what will be its first Big Ten home game. The game will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network. The Terrapins were the ACC regular season and tournament champions and finished the year with a 17-4-5 record.
Michigan State remains on the road to face Bowling Green on Tuesday, Sept. 23, before welcoming the other new Big Ten member, Rutgers on Sunday, Sept. 28 at 1 p.m. The month of October begins with a trip to Ohio State on Saturday the 4th for a 7 p.m. start.
"We are excited and proud to welcome Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten Conference," said Rensing. "Both programs will add another level of difficulty and excitement to the conference."
Perennial national power Akron comes to DeMartin Stadium on Tuesday, Oct. 7 at 4 p.m., to start a three-match home stand. The Zips ended the season No. 17 with a 17-4-1 record, won the MAC regular-season and tournament titles, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Second Round. Wisconsin, who was second in the Big Ten and went to the NCAA second round, comes to East Lansing on Saturday, Oct. 11 at 2 p.m. Western Michigan concludes the home stand on Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 4 p.m.
A trip to 2013 Big Ten regular season champion Penn State follows on Saturday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. The Nittany Lions were 13-6-2 overall and 5-1 in the conference, and ended their season in the NCAA Tournament Round of 16. Next up is an in-state trip to Oakland on Wednesday, Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.
"I really enjoy the regional rivalry games with Oakland, Western Michigan and Bowling Green," added Rensing. "They are all well-coached teams and are always excited to play Michigan State."
A home contest with Northwestern and a trip to defending national champion Notre Dame wrap up October. The Wildcats come in on Sunday, Oct. 26 at 1 p.m., while the match in South Bend is on Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. The Fighting Irish were 17-1-6 last season and knocked MSU out of the NCAA Tournament in the Elite Eight.
A showdown with in-state rival Michigan on Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. will be the Spartans' home finale and senior day. A road match at Indiana concludes the season on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. The Hoosiers beat MSU in the Big Ten Tournament title game last season, but lost in the first round of the NCAAs.
The 2014 Big Ten Tournament, which will include all nine conference schools, will be held at highest seeds' home field, beginning with on Saturday, Nov. 8, with the 8/9 game at the No. 1 seed's home field. The quarterfinals will follow on Sunday, Nov. 9, with the semifinals will be Friday, Nov. 14 and the finals on Sunday, Nov. 16.
"The combination of the Big Ten season and the non-conference schedule will give us every opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament, and will prepare us for any team we would face either home or away," said Rensing.
The Spartans finished last season ranked No. 7 in the final NSCAA national poll after advancing to the NCAA Elite 8. MSU had a record of 14-6-3 overall, placed third in the Big Ten at 3-2-1 and lost in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.
Michigan State will return seven starters, including their top four goal scorers and six of their top eight point gatherers. Leading scorer Tim Kreutz (23 points, nine goals) and leading assist man Jay Chapman (eight assists) both return after First-Team All-Big Ten honors last season, while Adam Montague was named to the second team, after finishing second on the team in goals (5), assists (6) and points (16). Zach Bennett returns in net, after playing every minute last season for MSU, posting a 0.70 goals-against average, an .876 save percentage, which was seventh in the nation, and a school-record 13 shutouts.