Oct. 25, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Getting back into Big Ten play, the No. 17 Michigan State men's soccer team (8-2-3, 1-1-1) will hit the road to take on Wisconsin (9-3-2, 1-2-0). The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network and will take place on Sunday, Oct. 27 at 3 p.m. ET at the McClimon Complex in Madison.
"I continue to feel good about where this team is at even though we had a tough loss against Penn State," said head coach Damon Rensing. "I thought we did a lot of good things and I think that was reassured against Akron. Playing there on the road, I thought our character would get tested a little bit after a tough home loss and how we would respond against a very good Akron team in a tough environment and obviously the character of this team came through. We have another tough game against Wisconsin, so it's about getting rested, getting healthy and getting refocused on the Big Ten; which is the most important part of our schedule and it's coming into play this time of year."
In the Rankings
In the NCAA men's soccer RPI rankings released on Oct. 20, Michigan State remains in the top-15, ranked No. 12. The Spartans are the second highest-ranked Big Ten team in the RPI rankings. The RPI, or rating percentage index, weights three factors including a team's Division I winning percentage, opponent strength of schedule and opponent's opponent strength of schedule.
Michigan State is also ranked No. 17 in the official NSCAA poll, tied for 17th in the SoccerTimes.com 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 (0.64), fewest goals allowed (nine), total assists (30) and assists per game (2.31). The team is No. 2 in shutouts (8), total shots (226), total saves (67), goals per game (1.977 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 save percentage (.882), sixth in the nation in assists per game (2.31), seventh in shutout percentage (.62), No. 10 in total assists (30), is No. 15 in points per game (5.85) and goals against average (.64). The Spartans are also tied for No. 17 in won-lost-tied percentage (.750), tied 21st in total points (76) and tied for 28th in saves per game (5.15).
Last Time Out
In a battle that ended in the Spartans fifth overtime game of the season, No. 17 Michigan State men's soccer fought the No. 18 Akron Zips to a 0-0 deadlock on Wednesday night at Cub Cadet Field. The Spartans are now 8-2-3 on the season after their first of a three-game road stretch, while the Zips own a 10-3-1 record.
Earning a career-high 10 saves and his eighth shutout of the season, goalkeeper Zach Bennett and the Spartan defense snapped the Zips' three-game winning streak, serving them their first tie of the season. He and the Spartan defense kept 23 shots by the Zips off the board throughout the game to earn the eighth shutout of the season.
Redshirt senior Kevin Cope was chosen as one of 10 finalists for the 2013 men's collegiate soccer 2013 Senior CLASS Award®, presented by Premier Sports Management. He is only the second candidate from MSU men's soccer program to be a candidate for the award established for the sport in 2007, as 2008 captain Doug DeMartin was in the top-30 his senior season. Fan voting begins now through Nov. 25 at www.seniorclassaward.com/vote.
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
To promote the 2013 men's soccer campaign, senior goalkeeper Bryce Dobbins enlisted several Spartans from around MSU athletics to appear in a recent video he produced. Featuring Athletic Director Mark Hollis, head coach Damon Rensing and Sparty himself, Michigan State invites the entire Spartan nation to `Join the Chain' and watch the video on YouTube here: http://youtu.be/NEuuz1RX6KU.
"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."
Junior forward Adam Montague was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for the first time in his career on Oct. 7. Scoring his second game-winning goal in as many games, Montague bounced a header into the net in the final minute of double-overtime at Northwestern. Leading the team in shots this season, Montague sent in his seventh shot of the game off an assist from Brent McIntosh to tie for first in the Big Ten with his third game-winning goal of the season.
His 50 shots and 3.85 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 0.64 goals against average and second with a .880 Sv%. He is also tied for first in shutouts (8), shutouts per game (0.62), sits at second in saves (66) and saves per game (5.08 avg.). The sophomore is also No. 6 in the nation in save percentage and is 17th in the country in goals against average.
Another Brick In The Wall
The Michigan State backline has been nearly perfect thus far in the 2013 season, only allowing nine goals in 13 games (0.69 avg.), first in the Big Ten. MSU is also second in the conference with eight shutouts so far this season. The Spartans are currently ranked No. 7 in the nation in shutout percentage (.62).
Breaking Down the Badgers
The Spartans hold an all-time record of 11-21-4 against Wisconsin, with the most recent meeting between the two teams ending in a 2-0 shutout win for MSU in East Lansing in 2012. The Badgers, who are 9-3-2 on the season and own a 6-0-0 home record, are returning home after dropping a 2-1 decision at Michigan on Oct. 20 and tying Milwaukee 1-1 on the road on Oct. 23.
"They are very good and very well-coached," Rensing said. "John does a great job there. I think it's the best Wisconsin team that we have seen in some years. They have a very good kid in the back, (A.J.) Cochran. Drew Conner is very good in the midfield and then (Nick) Janus and (Tomislav) Zadro in the attacking base has been very good. It will be a very tough test for us. I think there is a lot of teams and a lot of parity in the Big Ten and I think you will see two evenly matched teams play."
In his fourth season at the helm of the Badgers, John Task owns a 29-32-12 record and returns a total of 16 letterwinners from the 2012 squad that finished 6-8-5 overall and a 1-3-2 conference record. Wisconsin is led by Nick Janus (7-2-16), Jacob Brindle (5-1-11) and Tomislav Zadro (3-5-11). In goal, Casey Beyers owns a 1.38 GAA with a .647 Sv%, playing in 13 of the Badgers games this season.
The Battle For The Big Ten
Sunday's matchup marks the fourth Big Ten game of the season for the Spartans. Wisconsin is fifth in the conference standings at 1-2-0 and lead the conference in goals this season (28), goals per game (2.00) and total points (81).
MSU will play a total of six conference opponents prior to the conference tournament beginning Nov. 13. After defeating Northwestern on Oct. 6, the Spartans tied Ohio State (Oct. 13) and fell to Penn State (Oct. 20), before heading on the road to face Wisconsin (Oct. 27) and Indiana (Nov. 1). Michigan State will face off against in-state rival Michigan, who it defeated in double-overtime to win the 2012 Big Ten Tournament, on Senior Day in East Lansing on Nov. 9.
All-time, the Spartans own a 53-61-12 record against the current members of the league including three Big Ten Tournament Championship titles in 2004, 2008 and 2012.
The `Golden' Win
In addition to earning the first Big Ten win of the season and defeating Northwestern in Evanston for the first time in his career, the dramatic victory on Oct. 6 also marked Damon Rensing's 50th career win as head coach.
As the reigning Big Ten Tournament Champions, MSU entered the season ranked second in the 2013 Big Ten preseason coaches' poll with 21 returning Spartans.
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.
After heading in the game-winning goal to defeat Northwestern 3-2 in double overtime, Adam Montague was named to the College Soccer News National Team of the Week on Oct. 7 and the College Soccer Madness Big Ten Player of the Week on Oct. 8. Playing a key role in the Spartans back-to-back road wins, he also put a rebound in the back of the net to top UIC, 2-0.
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.
En route to accomplishing a team goal of winning the state of Michigan, the Spartans scored a goal in the first 13 seconds of the game against Oakland. They went on to blank the Grizzlies, 3-0 to earn the seventh shutout this season.
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
Head Coach Damon Rensing is in his fifth season as head coach, but embarks on his 15th on the Spartan sideline after a standout career for the Spartans (1993-96). Rensing is 51-35-13 (.581) in his five seasons as head coach, but MSU boasts a 130-75-24 (.620) overall record with Rensing on the sidelines, including 11 or more wins in nine seasons.
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.
Big Ten Broadcast Schedule
The Big Ten Network will televise two home Michigan State men's soccer games live this season. MSU's showdown with Ohio State at DeMartin Stadium was the first game (Oct. 13), and the other home game which will be shown is the Nov. 5 matchup with Notre Dame. The Spartans game at Wisconsin (Oct. 27) will also be aired live on the Big Ten Network. In addition to the games against Valparaiso (Sept. 8) and Penn State (Oct. 20), the Spartans game against Michigan (Nov. 9) will also be broadcast on Big Ten Digital Network; a paid subscription is necessary. The Big Ten Network will also televise the Big Ten Tournament, which will be held Nov. 15-17 at Ohio State.
Follow along with the game through live stats available at UWBadgers.com and follow @MSUMSoccer on twitter for play-by-play updates during the game.
The Spartans will continue Big Ten play as they travel to face Indiana on Friday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. ET.