Nov. 12, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The No. 20 Michigan State men's soccer team (10-4-3, 3-2-1) will travel to Columbus, Ohio to take on the Big Ten Tournament hosts and sixth-seeded Ohio State (8-5-3, 3-2-0) on Wednesday, Nov. 13 at 2 p.m. The game will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network (paid subscription necessary).
Big Ten Tournament History
After blanking Michigan 2-0 on Saturday, the Spartans locked up the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan State enters the tournament as the defending champions after defeating the Wolverines in overtime last season to earn the third Big Ten Tournament Championship in program history (2004 and 2008).
MSU owns an all-time tournament record of 17-19-2, including 10-9-1 in the first round. The team is 1-3 when the tournament is held in Columbus and 3-3 when seeded third. In total, 28 Spartans have been named to the First Team All-Big Ten, including Adam Montague in 2012, and 42 Spartans have received Second Team All-Big Ten honors, including Kevin Cope in 2012. Jay Chapman and Zach Bennett were both named to the 2012 All-Freshman team to improve MSU's all-time total to 12.
Breaking Down the Buckeyes
The Spartans holds an all-time record of 23-18-3 over Ohio State, with the most recent meeting between the two teams resulting in 1-1 draw in East Lansing on Oct. 13. In the Big Ten home-opener, Adam Montague sent in a header off a corner kick from Ryan Thelen to give MSU a 1-0 lead. However, they couldn't hold on and gave up a Buckeye equalizer with six minutes remaining in regulation. Despite continued pressure, neither team was able to score the golden goal through two overtime periods.
In his 17th season as head coach, John Bluem owns a 171-125-48 record and returns 11 letterwinners from the 2012 squad that finished seventh in the conference last season. Ohio State is led by Danny Jensen (1-1-3), Ryan Ivancic (1-0-2) and Sage Gardner (1-1-3). In goal, Alex Ivanov is first in the Big Ten with a 0.76 GAA and a .886 Sv%, playing in 15 of the Buckeyes' 17 games this season and leads the conference in saves with 101.
In the Rankings
In the NCAA men's soccer RPI rankings released on Nov. 11, 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 No. 16 by TopDrawerSoccer.com and in the SoccerTimes.com poll, 17th by College Sports Madness, No. 20 in the official NSCAA poll, and is also 22nd in the College Soccer News poll. Regionally, the Spartans are seventh in the NSCAA Great Lakes poll.
The Spartans (3-2-1) finished third in the Big Ten standings. MSU leads the Big Ten in fewest goals allowed (14), goals against average (0.77), total assists (37) and assists per game (2.18) and is tied for first with nine shutouts. The Spartans are second in total shots (282), total points (93) and total saves (92). MSU is No. 3 in goals per game (1.65) and tied for third in total goals (28).
In the NCAA standings released on Nov. 11, MSU has the sixth-best save percentage (.868) in the nation. They are also No. 6 in assists per game (2.18), seventh in total assists (37) and tied for 10th in shutout percentage (.53). The Spartans are 18th with 5.41 saves per game, No. 22 in points per game (5.47) and 25th in total points (93).
Last Time Out
In the last game of the regular season, the Michigan State men's soccer team shutout Michigan, 2-0, in front of the largest crowd of the year on Senior Day. The 2,445 fans in attendance proved to be the second largest in DeMartin Stadium history and the third most in program history. MSU defeated its in-state rival to earn the ninth shutout of the season.
Strong play by Bennett and the Spartan defense, kept the game scoreless at the half, despite the Wolverines holding a first-half 10-0 edge in shots.
The Spartans responded in full force in the second half as Sean Conerty sent a cross over to Kyle Rutz who headed in his second goal of the year from 15 yards out to give MSU a 1-0 lead over the Wolverines in the 60th minute. Less than three minutes later, another Michigan foul set up a penalty kick for MSU that Fatai Alashe took advantage of to extend the Spartans lead to 2-0.
In goal, Zach Bennett made seven saves to finish the regular season with a 0.77 GAA and an .865 Sv%. After the game, the Michigan State men's soccer program recognized his six-member senior class of Kevin Cope, Wesley Curtis, Bryce Dobbins, Cody Henderson, Brent McIntosh and Ryan Thelen, with an on field ceremony.
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 12 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 14 and goals against average (0.77) and has played in five 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: 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."
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 Nov. 11. 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 tied for first in the conference with 51 shots, sits at No. 2 with 1.18 points per game and is tied for second with 20 points. Kreutz is also tied for third with his eight-goal total on the season and his 0.47 goals per game average.
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 fourth in the Big Ten with his third game-winning goal of the season.
His 3.85 shot per game average leads the conference and he sits at No. 3 with 50 shots on the season. Montague 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 leads the conference with nine shutouts. He is also currently second in the Big Ten with a 0.77 goals against average and a .865 Sv%. His 90 saves and 5.29 saves per game also ranks second and he is No. 2 in shutouts per game (0.53). The sophomore is also No. 9 in the nation in save percentage.
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 17 games this season, MSU has outshot its opponents, for a total of 282-255. 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 16.6 shots per game. A total of 17 Spartans have contributed to the offensive shooting, led by Tim Kreutz (51), Adam Montague (50), Jay Chapman (36) and Sean Conerty (23).
Another Brick In The Wall
The Michigan State backline has been nearly perfect thus far in the 2013 season, only allowing 14 goals in 17 games (0.82 avg.), first in the Big Ten. MSU is also tied for first in the conference with nine shutouts this season. In the NCAA standings released on Nov. 11, the Spartans are currently tied for No. 10 in the nation in shutout percentage (.53) and 27th with a .77 GAA.
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.
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 53-37-12 (.584) in his five seasons as head coach, but MSU boasts a 132-77-24 (.618) 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.
The game against the Buckeyes will be streamed live on the Big Ten Digital Network at 2 p.m. Follow along with the game through live stats available at OhioStateBuckeyes.com and follow @MSUMSoccer on twitter for play-by-play updates during the game.
If the Spartans defeat Ohio State, they will go on to play the winner of Wisconsin and Northwestern on Friday, Nov. 15 at 2:30 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio.