Challenging Slate on Tap for Men's Soccer
Spartans face five teams which advanced to the Sweet 16, and two College Cup participants.
July 24, 2013
East Lansing, Mich. - - Seven NCAA Tournament teams from a year ago, including National Champion Indiana and semifinalist Creighton, help make up the 2013 Michigan State men's soccer schedule, as announced by fifth-year head coach Damon Rensing on Wednesday, July 24.
A schedule featuring both regional powers and national title contenders is nothing new for Michigan State, and the 2013 campaign will feature the Spartans in games against five teams which were seeded in last year's NCAA Tournament. In all, MSU will play 10 games at DeMartin Stadium, and face off with four teams as part of the non-conference schedule which appeared in the NCAA Tournament a year ago.
"We are extremely excited about our 2013 schedule," said Rensing "According to the final 2012 RPI, we played one of the toughest schedules in the country last year. This year will be no different. Our non conference schedule has teams from the ACC, Pac 12, Big East, Horizon League, and MAC which will prepare us for a very difficult Big Ten schedule."
MSU is coming off a season in which it gathered itself at the season's midpoint to go on an impressive second-half run, which included a shot at the Big Ten regular-season title on the season's final day, a Big Ten Tournament title, and a fifth trip to the NCAA Tournament in six seasons. Rensing's squad went 12-10-1 overall and 3-3 in Big Ten play. Battling through significant injuries for the third straight season, the Spartans once again showed that they were a force to be reckoned with not only within the Big Ten, but also as a rising team with a national profile.
Rensing plans on challenging his 2013 team immediately, as North Carolina is MSU's opening exhibition game (Thursday, Aug. 22) at the Shindigz National Soccer Festival in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Spartans will play a second exhibition game on Saturday, Aug. 24 against Butler at East Kentwood High School in Grand Rapids.
MSU will open the season with a three-game homestand. MSU opens on Sunday, Sept. 1 against in-state rival Western Michigan, which went 12-6-2 in 2012 and is under the tutelage of a new head coach this season. Pac-12 member Oregon State comes to East Lansing to start a Midwest series (Friday, Sept. 6), looking to improve on a 6-10-3 overall record from a year ago. Closing out the homestand is a game against Valparaiso (Sept. 8).
MSU has a pair of road games the following week. The Spartans get their second straight Horizon League opponent, Detroit, on Wednesday, Sept. 11, followed by a trip to Milwaukee to take on Marquette on Sunday, Sept. 15. A midweek home game against Bowling Green (Sept. 18) is the lone home game over a two-week span, as MSU goes back on the road for a Tuesday, Sept. 24 game at national semifinalist Creighton. The Bluejays finished last year with a 17-4-3 record, the nation's No. 6 NCAA Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) mark, and a No. 4 national ranking after competing in its second consecutive College Cup.
The Spartans face Northern Illinois at home (Sept. 28) before a two games in Chicago in the course of a week - MSU plays at Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday, Oct. 1, then opens its conference schedule at Northwestern on Sunday, Oct. 6. Northwestern was one of four Big Ten schools (Michigan, MSU, and Indiana the others) to make the NCAA Tournament field in 2012, and each school won at least one game. Northwestern fell to Louisville in the third round, 2-1.
MSU has three straight home games after its two trips to Chicago - back-to-back Sunday Big Ten games against Ohio State (Oct. 13) and Penn State (Oct.20) sandwiched around a midweek tilt against Oakland (Oct. 16). The Grizzlies were the Summit League runners-up in 2012 (11-7-1), falling in the conference title game.
Three straight road games are next up for MSU before finishing its regular-season schedule with a pair of big home contests. The Spartans travel to Akron on Wednesday, Oct. 23; the Zips are annual national title contenders who were tripped up in the third round by Creighton last year on penalty kicks, but finished the season with an 18-1-3 overall record. MSU then travels to Wisconsin (Oct. 27) and defending National Champion Indiana (Nov. 1) on back-to-back weekends. MSU defeated the Hoosiers twice last season, once in the regular season and also in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals. It was the just the second time in program history that the Spartans downed Indiana twice in the same season.
Notre Dame, the only team to defeat MSU by more than a goal during the 2012 season, comes to East Lansing on Tuesday, Nov. 3. The newest ACC member was the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament last year and eliminated the Spartans in the NCAA second round in South Bend.
The annual battle for the Big Bear Trophy against archrival Michigan closes MSU's regular season on Saturday, Nov. 9. Last year, the Wolverines denied the Spartans an outright regular-season Big Ten title with a 1-0 win on the final day of the season; MSU returned the favor and beat Michigan, 2-1 in overtime, in the finals of the Big Ten Tournament at Northwestern a week later.
Columbus, Ohio is the site for this year's Big Ten Men's Soccer Tournament, hosted by Ohio State Nov. 13-17.
"We really face some stiff competition right away with our exhibition game against UNC in Fort Wayne, which is always a great environment to get us ready for the regular season," noted Rensing. "We are also really excited about our home schedule with Oregon State coming to East Lansing along with some of our Big Ten and regional rivalries. Our student section, The Red Cedar Rowdies, were great fans last year and we are hoping to provide all of our fans a entertaining games at DeMartin Stadium. I think everyone in our program is really excited to getour season underway."