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No. 18 Michigan State Hosts Michigan in Battle For Big Bear

The winner of the MSU vs. U-of-M match will be the proud owners of the Big Bear trophy.

Nov. 8, 2013

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EAST LANSING, Mich. - In the final match of the regular season, the No. 18 Michigan State men's soccer team (9-4-3, 2-2-1) welcomes in-state rival Michigan (8-5-3, 3-2-0) to DeMartin Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. The winner of the annual game with be the proud owner of the Big Bear trophy for the rest of the year. The game, which will also recognize the Spartans' six seniors - Kevin Cope, Wesley Curtis, Bryce Dobbins, Cody Henderson, Brent McIntosh and Ryan Thelen - will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network Spartan All-Access (paid subscription necessary).

In the Rankings
In the NCAA men's soccer RPI rankings released on Nov. 5, Michigan State improved to No. 11 in the nation. The Spartans remain 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 16th in the poll and by College Sports Madness, No. 18 in the official NSCAA poll and by and is also 24th in the College Soccer News poll. Regionally, the Spartans are seventh in the NSCAA Great Lakes poll.

Currently, the Spartans (2-2-1) are fourth in the Big Ten standings. MSU leads the Big Ten in assists per game (2.19) and is tied for first for fewest goals allowed (14) and total assists (35). The Spartans are second in goals against average (0.81), total shots (264), total points (87) and total saves (85). MSU is No. 3 in shutouts (8) and fourth in both total goals (26) and goals per game (1.62).

In the NCAA standings released on Nov. 3, MSU had the fourth-best save percentage (.870) in the nation. They are also fourth in assists per game (2.33) and tied for 10th in shutout percentage (.53). The Spartans are at No. 16 in points per game (5.80), are 19th with 5.33 saves per game and rank No. 22 in goals against average (0.74) and total points (87).

Last Time Out
The No. 18 Michigan State men's soccer team fell to No. 1 Notre Dame, 2-0 on Tuesday at DeMartin Stadium. In the final non-conference game of the season, the match was played fairly evenly, but the Fighting Irish (10-1-5) took advantage of two opportunities within 40-seconds of each other midway through the second half to claim the victory.

Harrison Shipp eventually put Notre Dame on the board as he sent in a strike from 18-yards out, assisted by Robby Gallegos, that was put off the right post into the net in the 59th-minute.  A mere 36-seconds later, Vince Cicciarelli added a second ND goal, off an assist from Leon Brown and Patrick Hodan, that beat Bennett inside the right post. MSU showed solid ball movement through out the game to create opportunities, but the Notre Dame defense to keep any attempts off the scoreboard.

Senior Standout
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

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 11 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 four of the Spartan's eight 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:

"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."

Conference Recognition
After scoring his third game-winning goal of the season, Kreutz was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, as announced by the conference office on Monday.

In addition to earning an assist, he sent a goal into the net to give the Spartans a 3-2 double-overtime win at defending NCAA Champions Indiana.

The eighth goal Kreutz has scored this season, 10th of his career, solidified a 3-2 victory for the Spartans and their third-straight win over the Hoosiers. He is No. 2 in the conference with his eight-goal total on the season, and is also ranked second with 0.53 goals per game. With his additional four assists, Kreutz has the second-most points in the conference with 20.

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 third 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 then-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 tied for first in the Big Ten with eight shutouts. He sits at No. 2 with a .856 Sv% and is also second in saves (85) and saves per game (5.19 avg.) and is third in shutouts per game (0.50).He is also fourth with a 0.81 goals against average. In the NCAA standings released Nov. 3, the sophomore is also No. 7 in the nation in save percentage and is 28th in the country in goals against average.

This season, the Spartans have played in some of the toughest environments in college soccer. MSU has posted a 4-1-2 record on the road this season, including 1-0-2 against ranked-opponents with their only road loss coming at Wisconsin who is undefeated at home this season.

Through 16 games this season, MSU has outshot its opponents, for a total of 264-241. The Spartans recorded a season-high 36 shots against Ohio State on Oct. 13, an additional 13 past its previous season-high of 23 at Northwestern. Second in the conference in total shots, the team has averaged 16.5 shots per game. A total of 16 Spartans have contributed to the offensive shooting, led by Adam Montague (50), Tim Kreutz (47), Jay Chapman (35) and Sean Conerty (29).

Another Brick In The Wall
The Michigan State backline has been nearly perfect thus far in the 2013 season, only allowing 14 goals in 15 games (0.88 avg.), tied for first in the Big Ten. MSU is also tied for third in the conference with eight shutouts so far this season. In the NCAA standings released on Nov. 3, the Spartans are currently tied for No. 10 in the nation in shutout percentage (.53) and 22nd with a .74 GAA.

The Battle For Big Bear
The match between MSU and U-of -M will also serve as the annual Battle for Big Bear, as the rivalry trophy will be awarded to the victorious side for the 13th time. The Big Bear wood statute commemorates the in-state rivalry and the traveling hardware has been up for grabs in each regular-season meeting between the two schools since 2000. Though MSU defeated Michigan, 2-1 in overtime last season en route to winning the third Big Ten Tournament Championship in school history, the Wolverines are looking to defend the trophy for the first time in program history, as Michigan State fell, 1-0 in Ann Arbor during the regular season. In case of a tie, Michigan would retain the trophy.

U-of-M has yet to defeat the Spartans on back-to-back occasions. The Spartans lead the series with an all-time record of 29-6-6 over Michigan. The match holds added pressure as the outcome will have direct implications on the upcoming Big Ten Tournament seeding.

The Wolverines, who are 8-5-3 on the season, are hitting the road after going 4-1 in a  five-game home stretch  including 1-0 wins over then-12th-ranked Creighton on Oct. 15 and most recently Valparaiso on Tuesday.

In his second season at the helm of Michigan, Chaka Daley owns a 19-15-4 record and returns a total of eight starters from the 2012 squad that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and finished with a 11-10-1 record. The Wolverines are led by James Murphy (4-2-10), TJ VanSlooten (4-1-9) and Tyler Arnone (2-5-9). In goal, Adam Grinwis owns a 1.17 GAA with a .759 Sv%, playing all but one of U-of-M's games this season.

Big Ten Tournament Seeding
Entering the last week of the regular season, Wisconsin and Michigan are tied for second in the conference with nine points each, while the Spartans sit in fourth with seven points. With a win over the Wolverines, MSU can earn as high as a No. 2 seed with a Wisconsin loss to Ohio State, or at worst a No. 3 seed if the Badgers defeat OSU. In the event of a tie with Michigan, the Spartans will lock up the No. 4 seed in the tournament. The tournament seeding will be announced following the conclusion of the final regular season game.

DeMartin Dominance
With thanks to Michigan State Sports Turf Manager Amy Foudy and her staff, DeMartin Stadium was revamped with a new field to open the 2013 season. MSU owns a 55-37-12 record while playing at DeMartin Stadium, which opened its gates in 2008. The Spartans have not had a losing season at Old College Field since 1989. In 57 years of play, MSU has had only two losing seasons at home (1988-89).

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.

Preseason Honors
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.

Three members of the team were recognized by the Big Ten coaches as redshirt senior Kevin Cope and juniors Adam Montague and Fatai Alashe were named to the 2013 Players to Watch list.

Ranked No. 4 in the Big Ten by, Kevin Cope returns for his final season as a team captain for the Spartans. He was recognized on'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'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's top-100.

National Spotlight
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 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.

Spartan Firsts
In his first start of the year, Kyle Rutz helped Michigan State kick off its final road match of the season at Indiana with a bang as he connected on a cross from Tim Kreutz to earn his first goal of the season off a header, just four minutes into the game. Rutz's fourth career goal gave the Spartans an early 1-0 lead and helped spark an eventual win over the Hoosiers.

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 52-37-12 (.580) in his five seasons as head coach, but MSU boasts a 131-77-24 (.616) 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 Spartans match up with Michigan will be the third and final game to be broadcast on the Big Ten Digital Network (paid subscription necessary) on Saturday. Nov. 9. The Big Ten Network will televise the Big Ten Tournament, which will be held Nov. 15-17 at Ohio State.

Tune In
The game against the Wolverines will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network at 2 p.m. Follow along with the game through live stats available at and follow @MSUMSoccer on twitter for play-by-play updates during the game.

Next Up
The Spartans will await their fate to see which conference foe they will be competing against at the Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, Ohio on Nov. 15-17.



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