No. 17 Spartans Look To Bounce Back Against No. 18 Akron
Oct. 22, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Looking to improve an unbeaten road record, the No. 17 Michigan State men's soccer team (8-2-2) will travel to face No. 18 Akron (10-3-0). The game will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. at Cub Cadet Field in FirstEnergy Stadium.
"I think it's a lot of physical and mental rejuvenation," said head coach Damon Rensing. "I don't think there is a lot that we have to train on the soccer field before Akron. We just have to be aware of some things we have to clean up in order to win these close games. I think the guys will be ready for sure. You get to play at Akron, which is a great environment. It will be tough; we will have to be together. So I think that's a positive, the guys will be ready to play for this game."
In the Rankings
Michigan State is also ranked 14th in the SoccerTimes.com poll, No. 17 in the NSCAA poll, 19th by TopDrawerSoccer.com, No. 23 by College Sports Madness, 24th in the College Soccer News poll and is tied for No. 25 by Soccer America. Regionally, the Spartans are fifth in the NSCAA Great Lakes poll.
Currently, the Spartans (1-1-1) are third in the Big Ten standings. MSU leads the Big Ten in goals against average (0.70), fewest goals allowed (nine), total assists (30) and assists per game (2.50). The team is No. 2 in shutouts (7), total shots (225), total saves (57), goals per game (1.92 avg.) and in total points (76). Michigan State is also tied for second in the conference with 23 goals scored.
MSU is No. 4 in the nation in assists per game (2.50), tied for fourth in save percentage (.864), tied for fifth in total assists (30), eighth in shutout percentage (.58), is No. 11 in points per game (6.33), is tied for No. 16 in won-lost-tied percentage (.750), sits at No. 20 in goals against average (.60) and is tied for 24th in scoring offense.
Last Time Out
A foul by Penn State set up a free kick for the Spartans. Ryan Thelen found Tim Kreutz who headed in a goal just inside the right post to give MSU a 1-0 lead in the ninth minute. It marked the seventh goal of the season for Kreutz, the ninth of his career.
Penn State earned the equalizer in the 50th minute of the game and forced the defense into overdrive. Both teams were unable to take the lead, which forced the game into double overtime. With under a minute into the second overtime period, the Nittany Lions scored the golden goal to earn the win.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School ®, the Senior CLASS Award focuses on notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.
"He's certainly worthy of being in the top-10 when you look at the quality of a player he is and the quality of a young man and what he's done both academically and in the community," said head coach Damon Rensing. "That's hard to balance all of those and he excels in all of them. I'm sure there are 10 other guys in the country who are doing the same things, but I can't think of any the way that Kevin does it. That's a testament to him and the support that we have here at Michigan State, both at the academic center, Angela Montie with the community service and how we try to do things her at Michigan State within the soccer program."
The two-time captain has already made a huge impact on the pitch for the Spartans this season, despite missing five games. Recording one career goal prior to 2013, Cope has scored two goals in six games for MSU this season. As a member of the stout Spartan defense, he has helped Michigan State lead the Big Ten in fewest goals allowed with seven and goals against average (0.60) and has played in three of the Spartan's seven shutouts this season.
Join The Chain
"It might sound cliché, but I'm all about the program and I wanted to do something promotional wise that would be for the team, but at the same time helping my skills," said Dobbins. "(Assistant coach) Kylie (Stannard) likes to say that I did 95% and he did 5% because he came up with the idea. We wanted to do some type of video and we thought that this would be a good way to symbolize the team and connecting everyone who supports us. We thank everyone who helped make it possible."
His 50 shots and 4.17 shot per game average leads the conference. He also recorded an assist in the team's first Big Ten win of the season and the first road win over Northwestern since 2001. Though he was held to just three shots at Illinois-Chicago on Tuesday, he earned his second goal of the season with a shot off an assist from Jay Chapman to put the Spartans up 1-0 at Flames Field.
For two-straight weeks, goalkeeper Zach Bennett was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week by the conference office on Sept. 16 and 23. Bennett's career-high eight saves helped the Spartans to their second-straight shutout against Bowling Green with a 1-0 home win on Sept. 18. With the help of his backline, he earned his third shutout in four games as the Spartans blanked Marquette on the road on Sept. 15. It marked the third weekly honor for the Plano, Texas, native who has played in every minute of the 2013 season.
Bennett is currently first in the Big Ten with a 0.70 goals against average and second with a .879 Sv%. He is also No. 2 in shutouts (7), shutouts per game (0.58), saves (56) and saves per game (4.67 avg.). The sophomore is also No. 6 in the nation in save percentage and is 21st in the country in goals against average.
Another Brick In The Wall
An Analysis of Akron
"They are a very good possession team," Rensing said. "So I think we have to be patient with ourselves when we don't have the ball. We are going to have to be patient with the ball. We are going to have to keep the ball and not give it away right away and make them defend a little bit. That's the key with Akron - they are very good on the ball, very good in possession. You have to be okay with that and know that even though you don't have the ball sometimes, that's okay. We will have to be patient in that regard."
In his inaugural season at the helm of the Zips, Jared Embick previously served as the associate head coach and was the 2010 National Assistant Coach, owning a 110-13-16 record while on staff. Akron returns nine letterwinners from the 2012 squad that finished 18-1-3 overall and won the Mid-American conference regular season and tournament title with an undefeated conference record. The Zips are led by Eric Stevenson (3-4-10), Reinaldo Brenes (4-1-9) and Adam Najem (3-2-8). In goal, Fernando Pina owns a 0.58 GAA with a .795 Sv%, playing in the entirety of Akron's 13 games this season.
Mastering the MAC
The `Golden' Win
Ranked No. 4 in the Big Ten by TopDrawerSoccer.com, Kevin Cope returns for his final season as a team captain for the Spartans. He was recognized on TopDrawerSoccer.com's Preseason Best XI second team and is ranked No. 22 of the top-100 Division I players.
Adam Montague, also a team captain, was ranked sixth in the conference by TopDrawerSoccer.com's heading into the 2013 season after posting a goal in every game of the 2012 Big Ten Tournament. He is also No. 47 in the country on TopDrawerSoccer.com's top-100.
Receiving some well-deserved recognition, Fatai Alashe was named National Player of the Week on Oct. 1 by TopDrawerSoccer.com. With Kevin Cope currently out of the backline, midfielder/defender Fatai Alashe expanded his position on the field and lent his skills where the MSU needed them most. The veteran Spartan put Michigan State on the board with a goal at No. 3 Creighton on Sept. 24 and added an assist in the home victory over North Illinois on Sept. 28.
Following his first goal scored of the 2013 season in the Spartans' shutout win over Northern Illinois, sophomore Jay Chapman was named Big Ten Player of the Week by College Soccer Madness on Oct. 1. He recorded five shots and a game-winning goal to put the Spartans on the board over the Huskies, and earned an assist in the 2-2 draw against No. 3 Creighton.
After recording his first career goal in his inaugural start as a Spartan, freshman Dewey Lewis was named Big Ten Player of the Week by College Soccer Madness on Sept. 2. Lewis stole the ball away from a Bronco defender and beat the keeper to earn an unassisted goal.
As the Spartans earned a dramatic win over conference leader Northwestern on Oct. 6 in their first Big Ten game of the season, it also marked the first time that Michigan State has beaten the Wildcats in Evanston since 2001. The game was also the first double-overtime win for the Spartans since they defeated Indiana in Bloomington in 2009.
In addition to Dewey Lewis' first career goal scored against Western Michigan in his Spartan debut, redshirt senior Ryan Thelen scored his first career goal on Sept. 6 against Oregon State. The game-winning goal was scored off Thelen's seventh corner kick of the game, hooked into the back right corner of the net to give the Spartans a 1-0 victory.
With the win, MSU improved to 2-0 which marked the first time the Spartans started with a two-game shutout since 2007 under former head coach Joe Baum. It was the first 2-0 start to the season for head coach Damon Rensing and the first time in the Rensing era that the Spartans had not allowed a goal in the first two games
At The Helm
Kylie Stannard and Ben Pirmann serve as the Spartan assistants. Pirmann is also a former Spartan letterwinner, and previously served the program as the volunteer assistant before returning to his alma mater after a coaching stint at Western Michigan. Stannard is a graduate of Creighton, which reached the Elite Eight twice in his career and the semifinals once. Prior to coming to MSU, he was an assistant coach at Northern Illinois. Stannard and Pirmann have both served as the head coach of Detroit City FC, which plays in the National Premier Soccer League. Stannard made his debut in 2012, while Pirmann coached the team in 2013. Former MSU keeper Jeremy Clark, who played for MSU 2008-11, is now in his second season as the team's volunteer coach.
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