September 25, 2009
A third of the way in to the season we are ranked at a decent 21st in the nation; not too shabby for a team battling through the loss of 6 key starters, not to mention the missing link in the mid-field, an injured Nosa Iyoha. We're off to a great start in every aspect, with a record of 4-1-1. Having only one senior on the team has proven to be a benefit to the team chemistry, as the underclassmen along with the strong base of juniors have stepped up into these missing roles. Head Coach Damon Rensing, along with his entourage of coaches have done well in preparing us for the adversity that this season has in store for us. The addition of Assistant Coach Kylie Stannard has also proved to be a great spark for our team this season. He's brought a strong intensity to the team and carries himself in a very professional manner, which helps to motivate every player on the field.
We started the season off strong, with a 3-1 dominating win over Duquesne, followed by a hard fought battle against the 10th ranked team in the nation, UIC. The game went into double overtime before the clock finally expired with neither side able to break the deadlock. We wanted revenge, as it was UIC that knocked us out of the NCAA tournament last year in a shootout, but unfortunately just couldn't find the back of the net. One of our best chances came late in the game with junior captain, Jeff Ricondo, hitting the crossbar.
We went on to win our next two games against Lipscomb University and Wright State in Ann Arbor at the Michigan Invitational. With a combined 180 minutes of play between both games our offense found success with putting away six goals, while conceding zero. The diversity of our offense persevered with 5 different Spartans scoring goals; Jeff Ricondo, Mark Barone, Steve Lucianek, Domenic Barone, Spencer Thompson all found success in the attack.
One our largest tests as a young team would be the trip to San Diego, California to take on Loyola Marymount and San Diego University. Every aspect of the trip needs to be taken into account when competing. The traveling, the jetlag, playing in a new atmosphere, playing under the hot cali sun. But none of that would phase us in our first game against Loyola Marymount as we came out strong scoring within opening 20 minutes. We would go on to score 2 more goals walk off the field 3-0 against a strong Loyola team. We never let down, and really set the tempo of the game winning a majority of the 50/50 balls and playing Spartan soccer throughout the 90 minute span. Between game days we got a chance to relax and enjoy the Cali weather. We took a trip to Mission Beach, which felt somewhat like a "grown up field trip." Four vans pulled up to the edge of the beach and unloaded 20 Spartan Soccer Players, looking more like a class full of 5th graders. Wide-eyed and laughing we stormed the beach dropping our bags as we ran to the water; needless to say it was therapeutic for us, relieving us of our thoughts of soccer competition, sweat, and endurance. The following day would leave us with a sour taste in our mouth, as we would end up losing to San Diego 2-0. With the loss also came the end of Avery's phenomenal shutout streak which lasted an outrageous 1,318:26. It was a hard fought game, with both teams finding chances. The only difference being San Diego finished theirs.
With that being our last memory on the soccer field, we look to use that motivation to fuel our intensity as we open the Big Ten season with a game against Ohio State on Sunday. This game is personal to many of us, seeing as though no current Spartans have beaten Ohio State since we've been here. It will be nice to be back at home and playing in DeMartin stadium. Sunday is more than just a game; it will put us in the right direction toward another Big Ten regular season championship!
September 3, 2009
This past week, the team traveled to Fort Wayne, Ind., to compete in an exhibition tournament held at IPFW. We were scheduled to play Evansville on Thursday and the host-team IPFW on Saturday. As it always is, the first trip with the team is full of excitement. From the moment we leave Jenison Field house to the 90th minute in the second game, every moment spent together is full of energy and anxiousness. Our first match against Evansville would not turn out to be our best showing. Although we walked off the field without conceding a goal, we also could not put together the offense needed to score one. Overall, the team as a unit played very well defensively by not allowing Evansville very many offensive chances. We struggled to find that offensive spark, which would have given us the game-winning goal. Playing the host team IPFW on Saturday came the pressures of playing in the big game; the fans, the field and the perfect atmosphere to come together as the Spartan men's soccer team. From the first whistle you could sense energy amongst the whole team. The pace of play seemed to be a lot faster, as we found ourselves in a near scoring opportunity within the first three minutes of the game. The intensity never dropped and we pushed past half time tied at zeros. Both goals came in the second half, and both goals prevailed from set plays. The first being a direct kick taken from the right wing just outside of the box, and the second coming from a corner kick. IPFW scored a lucky goal that came off an outrageous deflection, which sent our keeper from one side of the net to the other. We came out victorious with a 2-1 victory. All in all, the trip was very beneficial. We played against good competition and strived through adversity. Good signs for a young team!
August 25, 2009
Today was the last two-a-day of my life - bittersweet. It marked the final day in which our team practiced twice in one day. As stated by head coach Damon Rensing "the honeymoon period is over." Today everyone had to dig deep inside to push past the fatigue and tiredness of preseason. We started light, with the preparation of Thursday's exhibition game against Evansville on our minds. At this point, we're all tired of competing against each other and are ready to take on a real opponent. The real competition took place off the soccer field and on the back 9 of Pebble Beach in Tiger Woods Golf. Joe "Gooseman" Joe Gregus came up big with a hole in one on the 17th hole to lock down the win and secure his place in the Tiger Woods hall of fame. Throughout this past week, Tiger Woods Golf has seemed to be a therapeutic escape from the reality pre-season for the whole team - thanks Tiger. Bring on Evansville!
August 24, 2009
With the aches and pains of preseason lingering, day three of preseason/two-a-days got off to a great start. Although sore and a bit tired, everyone's spirits seemed to be high. Maybe the excitement of the infamous Green & White Game, which was scheduled for day four of preseason (Monday), was giving everyone a little extra pep in their step. Earlier on in the day we worked on attacking and defending 3 v. 3. In the later session, we were introduced to some new offensive restarts.
Today we held the legendary Green & White game. For those of you who don't know what this game entails, you should probably check your status as a Spartan Fan, but I'll fill you in anyway. The Green & White game is an inter-squad scrimmage held at the beginning of the year that almost every Spartan varsity sports team plays. It's a good way to evaluate the team against each other before competing against another school. It's also a good way to mix and match different line-ups to see what works well and what may need some work. From the opening whistle, the intensity of the scrimmage was par to a game. The Green squad, which was mostly veteran players, came out victorious with a 2-1 win over the white squad. Both teams showed no mercy towards their teammates and all players on the field ran at each other with no hesitation. Although a few of our brand new Nike balls are still probably floating down the Red Cedar River, both teams did a very good job at creating and finishing their opportunities. Both teams stayed organized, and a variety of different players showed early signs of leadership. Overall, the Green & White game was a success in every aspect! The team is really starting to come together as a unit, on and off the field.
August 21, 2009
This morning's session began at 8 a.m. Parents were sipping their morning cup of coffee, young children were tucked tight into their beds, and the Spartan Men's Soccer team slowly limped into the trainer's room in dyer need of a good stretch! The muscles were a bit sore this morning, to say the least. The focus of this morning's session was 2 vs. 2 tactics and play. We started in small grids and eventually worked our way up to 2 vs. 2 to goal. Everyone did really well both offensively and defensively. The first session wrapped up and we got some lunch at the good ol' cafeteria. For the second session we broke up into two different groups, offense and defense. We worked on offensive attack and defensive shape. The session ended with a full field scrimmage, which allowed us to utilize the tactics we had learned earlier. For the last session of the day we had an hour-long practice in which we worked on defensive restarts including corners and free kicks. We ended with a brief full field match that consisted of many different game like situations, in which we would have to defend restarts. Overall, the day went really well. Although it was demanding both physically and mentally, everyone stayed focused and gave a great effort. Things are headed in the right direction!
August 20, 2009
For those of you new to Spartan Men's Soccer, my name is Tim Granaderos, a senior defender from Portage, Michigan. By some twist of fate, I will be the lone senior going into this fall season and I am very excited to defend our Big Ten championship. Prior to pre-season, the team took a trip up north as somewhat of a meet and greet for the new freshman. The trip went really well and everyone enjoyed themselves. Coming into pre-season as a team we knew we had our work cut out for us, with losing six key senior starters. But with a good returning core, led by our three captains Jeff Ricondo, Spencer Thompson, and Colin Givens we should have no problem picking up where we left off last year. On Wednesday night, we officially kicked off the 2009 season with our fitness test. As a team we came in both mentally and physically prepared, and overall did very well. At 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning, a bit groggy but excited, the team met up at the track to get in a little extra conditioning before we got to lace up our boots and step out onto the field as the Spartan 2009 Men's Soccer Team. The day consisted of two practices focusing on strength building exercises and defensive shape. Everything went smooth and everyone gave 110 percent effort. To wrap up the first official day of practice, the team met up to have a "Season Goal Setting Meeting." We came together as a team and set some goals and standards to achieve and abide by throughout the season. The meeting was very beneficial to both the team and the coaching staff as it gave everyone a chance to get on the same page, for what will be an exciting and successful season!