Nov. 14, 2012
Michigan State hosts Cleveland State in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Soccer Championship. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium.
Tickets for Thursday's game will be available at the gate on Thursday. General admission tickets are $7, while students and seniors will be admitted for $5.
The Spartans earned the Big Ten's autobid to the NCAA Tournament by virtue of a 2-1 overtime victory over Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament championship game on Sunday afternoon in Evanston. Ill.
Cleveland State owns an 11-5-3 overall record, and earned the Horizon League's autobid with wins over Valparaiso (1-0) and Loyola (2-0) in the league tournament.
The Spartans are making their 15th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, and fifth in the last six years. The last time the Spartans were in the tournament was in 2010, capping a run of four straight appearances in the NCAA field (2007-2010).
MSU is 19-13-2 all-time in the NCAA tournament. Head Coach Damon Rensing is making his third appearance in four seasons as the Spartan head coach.
Michigan State is 11-9-1 and finished the regular season 3-3 in Big Ten play. The Spartans are 8-3-0 since the start of October.
Michigan State captured its third Big Ten Tournament title in school history. MSU also won in 2004 and 2008.
MSU became the third No. 5 seed to win the Big Ten Tournament, and the previous two also played No. 3 seeds and pulled off an upset.
&nsp; Ohio State accomplished the feat in 2000, downing No. 3 Penn State, 3-2 in OT, in the championship game. MSU's first-ever Big Ten Tournament title came in 2004, when the Spartans were the No. 5 seed - they downed No. 3 Northwestern, 1-0.
The Spartan offense tallied the most goals in Big Ten games this season with nine goals in six games. They nearly matched that output with seven goals in the Big Ten Tournament (three games).
MSU has tied its longest winning streak of the season (three games). It first accomplished the feat in late October vs. Oakland, Wisconsin, and Indiana; despite nine losses on the season, MSU never lost more than two games in a row over the course of the campaign.
Of the Spartans nine losses on the season, just one of those was by more than one goal (at No. 3/8 Notre Dame, 2-0) and three of those losses came in double overtime.
MSU has outscored its opponents 13-6 over the last eight games, twice putting three goals on the scoreboard. Head coach Damon Rensing attributes this to some continuity in the lineup - the first part of the season, MSU was dealing with several holes in the lineup and losing significant contributors to injury.
Adam Montague scored in all three games during the Big Ten Tournament and was named the Offensive Player of the Tournament. Kevin Cope was also named to the All-Tournament Team and was named Defensive Player of the Tournament. Montague is the second-leading scorer in the Big Ten (7g, 19 points), and was a First Team All-Big Ten honoree. Cope was named to the second team.
Freshman goalkeeper Zach Bennett continues to be a consistent force in net for the Spartans. In his 11 starts, Michigan State is 8-3 and has outscored opponents 16-8 in those games. Bennett has given up multiple goals in a game just once - in the 2-1 loss at Penn State in which the game-winner was an own goal. Bennett is third in the Big Ten in GAA (0.81) and second in save percentage (.795). His three shutouts rank fifth in the Conference. He and Jay Chapman were named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
The Spartans are led by three seniors: fifth-year forward Domenic Barone (who missed the 2011 season with injury), Nick Wilson, and transfer Luke Norman, who played his first three collegiate seasons at Wake Forest.
Despite starting the season 3-6-1, Michigan State won five games during the month of October. Of the Spartans nine losses on the season, just one of those was by more than one goal (at No. 3/8 Notre Dame, 2-0) and three of those losses came in double overtime.
Adam Montague leads the team in scoring with seven goals and five assists, and is second in the Big Ten with 19 points. Jay Chapman has recorded four goals and an assist on the year while Domenic Barone and Luke Norman have each tallied three goals and two assists. Ryan Thelen is the team's leading assist man (and third in the league) with seven on the season.
Cleveland State finished the season 12-5-3 and earned the Horizon League's automatic bid into the tournament by beating Loyola 2-0 in the Horizon League Tournament final. The Vikings are 7-0-2 in their final nine games and are unbeaten since September 29th, a 2-1 loss to Wisconsin.
Admir Suljevic leads the offensive attack for Cleveland State, leading the team in both goals (5) and assists (4). Cazz Warren, Zach Ellis-Hayden, Aaron Adkins, and Mike Derezic all have four goals as part of a balanced Viking offense. Aslinn Rodas and Cristian Arboleda each have three assists on the season.
Brad Stuver has started every game in net for Cleveland State. He's allowed 16 goals in 19 games, owning a 0.80 GAA, .832 save percentage, and has recorded nine shutouts on the season.
Five Michigan State players received post-season honors from the Big Ten Conference, as announced Wednesday, November 7th by the conference office. Sophomore Forward Adam Montague was named First Team All-Big Ten, junior center back Kevin Cope was named Second Team All-Big Ten, freshmen Jay Chapman and Zach Bennett were named to the All-Freshman team, and Nick Wilson was the team's Sportsmanship Award recipient.
Seven teams that appeared on Michigan State's regular season schedule made it into the field of 48. Notre Dame earned the number one seed, UConn is the No 4, Akron is No. 5, and Marquette No. 7. Conference opponent Indiana got the 16 seed, and Michigan and Northwestern, like the Spartans, are unseeded and playing in the first round.
The Spartans earned weekly Big Ten honors in two straight weeks, beginning with Domenic Barone and Zach Bennett sweeping Big Ten honors on Oct. 22, followed by freshman Jay Chapman earning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his three-goal effort in the win against No. 16 Indiana on Oct. 29.
Some significant injuries have shortened MSU's bench this season, with players being lost for the remainder of the year. Starting outside back Josh Barens has not seen the field at all this season, but is expected to be ready to go for the spring training sessions and games. He will apply for a medical redshirt season. Freshman Andrew Herr sustained a season-ending injury in the exhibition game vs. IPFW, and will also apply for a medical redshirt.
&nsp; MSU lost two players for the remainder of the season during the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge - Wesley Curtis sustained his injury against Notre Dame, and Kyle Rutz in the home game against Marquette. In addition, senior Brent McIntosh will miss the remainder of the season as well.
Head Coach Damon Rensing is in his fourth season as head coach, but embarks on his 14th on the Spartan sideline after a standout career for the Spartans (1993-96). Rensing is 42-32-10 in his four seasons as head coach, but MSU boasts an 121-73-22 (.619) overall record with Rensing on the sidelines, including 11 or more wins in eight seasons.
&nsp; 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. This past summer, Stannard made his debut as the head coach of Detroit City FC, which plays in the National Premier Soccer League. Former MSU keeper Jeremy Clark, (2008-11), is now in his first season as the team's volunteer coach.
Michigan State was selected third in the pre-season Big Ten men's soccer poll. In conjunction with the pre-season survey, Senior Domenic Barone , junior Kevin Cope and sophomore Adam Montague were mentioned on the Big Ten 2012 Players to Watch List.
The winner of Thursday's game travels to South Bend to take on number one seed Notre Dame on Sunday. Kickoff time is 7 p.m.