Nov. 14, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The No. 20 Michigan State men’s soccer team (11-4-3, 3-2-1) advanced to play seventh-seeded Northwestern (10-6-3, 2-4-1) on Friday, Nov. 15 at 2:30 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio. The game will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.
Big Ten Tournament History
After blanking Ohio State 2-0 on Friday, the Spartans advanced to the semifinal of the Big Ten Tournament. Third-seeded 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 18-19-2, including 11-9-1 in the first round and 4-8-1 in the semifinals. The team is 2-3 when the tournament is held in Columbus and 4-3 when seeded third.
The Word on the Wildcats
The Spartans hold an all-time record of 29-6-3 over Northwestern, with the most recent meeting between the two teams resulting in 3-2 double-overtime win for MSU on Oct. 6 in Evanston, Ill. In the Big Ten opener, Adam Montague sent in a header in the final minute of double-overtime to secure a Spartan victory over the then-conference leader NU. It was the third-straight year that the meeting between the two teams has been sent into double overtime, and the first time that Michigan State has beaten the Wildcats in Evanston since 2001.
In his 13th season as head coach, Tim Lenahan owns a 133-93-37 record and returns 16 letterwinners from the 2012 squad that tied for first in the Big Ten regular season. The Wildcats are led by Joey Calistri (12-3-28) who sits at first in the Big Ten in goals and points, Chris Ritter (5-4-14) and Brandon Medina (3-5-11). In goal, Tyler Miller owns a 0.80 GAA with a .815 Sv%, playing 14 of Northwestern’s games this season.
Last Time Out
In the quarterfinal of the Big Ten Tournament, Michigan State defeated Ohio State, 2-0 on Wednesday afternoon to earn its 10th shutout of the season.
Ohio State was unable to clear out a dangerous ball crossed in by Jay Chapman before Brent McIntosh took it around the defender and into the net in the 56th minute. It was the first career goal for the senior Spartan. Not long after, some aggressive play led to an Ohio State penalty kick that bounced off the right post to keep the equalizer off the score board.
In the 68th minute, Ryan Keener sent a ball over to Sean Conerty who volleyed an aerial target inside the far post to give the Spartans a 2-0 lead. It marked his third goal of the season and fourth of his career. In goal, Zach Bennett thwarted any attempt from the Buckeyes to earn his 10th shutout of the season, 13th of his career. He improved his GAA to 0.73 with an .872 Sv%.
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 (0.73), total shots (302), total assists (39) and assists per game (2.17) and is tied for first with 10 shutouts. The Spartans are second in total points (99) and total saves (97). MSU is No. 3 in goals per game (1.67) and tied for third in total goals (30).
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).
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 54-37-12 (.619) in his five seasons as head coach, but MSU boasts a 133-77-24 (.619) 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 Wildcats will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network at 2:30 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 Northwestern, they will go on to play the winner of fifth-seeded Indiana and top-seeded Penn State in the championship game on Sunday, Nov. 17 at 2 p.m. in Columbus.