MSU Readies For NCAA Match Against Butler
For the fourth consecutive season, the Michigan State men's soccer team has earned a bid to the NCAA Championship. After a first-round win over intra-state rival Oakland, the Spartans will travel to Indianapolis to tangle with 13th-seeded Butler.
Michigan State head coach Damon Rensing enters his second season as head coach after serving as an assistant coach for 10 seasons at his alma mater. During his 11 years at Michigan State, Rensing has helped lead the Spartans to 2004 and 2008 Big Ten Tournament championships as well as the 2008 conference regular-season crown.
Rensing's assistants are Kylie Stannard (Creighton `01), former Spartan head coach Joe Baum (who led the Spartans for 32 seasons before announcing his retirement as the head coach) and Bill Boyle, who played collegiately at Hartwick.
The Spartans finished the 2010 regular season with a 11-7-1 overall record. and earned one of the 26 at-large bids to the 48-team NCAA Tournament field. The Spartans advanced with a 2-0 victory over Oakland on Thursday at DeMartin Stadium.
Butler won the Horizon League and posted a 16-0-3 overall record. The Bulldogs received a first-round bye.
Michigan State got a pair of goals from midfielder Domenic Barone and four saves from keeper Avery Steinlage to post a 2-0 victory over Oakland in the first round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
Barone gave MSU the first goal of the day in the 48th minute. He was fouled in the box by a takedown; he lined up for the kick, waited for the keeper to commit to his left, and slid the kick into the bottom right corner of the net. Barone doubled his team's lead with a goal in the 62nd minute. Brent Rosendall fed Barone the ball behind the midfield line; Barone streaked up the right side and eluded the covering defender inside the box. His shot found its mark into the side netting on the left side.
The 48 teams selected to the NCAA Tournament field are vying for the right to compete at the 2010 NCAA Men's College Cup December 10 -12 in Santa Barbara, Calif, at Meredith Field at Harder Stadium. The University of California, Santa Barbara, will host the championship for the first time.
The winner of Sunday's second-round game between Michigan State and Butler will advance to a third-round contest against either Georgetown or overall No. 3 seed North Carolina. Those two teams will face off on Sunday as well.
Michigan State is making it's 14th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance and earned its fourth consecutive bid to the national tournament. The Spartans are 18-10-4 in its previous NCAA Tournament games, which includes a pair of co-national Championships (1967, 1968) and four national championship game appearances.
Michigan State is in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season. In each of the previous two years, the Spartans receved a first-round bye.
Michigan State leads the all-time series by a 2-0 margin. The teams have one previous meeting in the NCAA Tournament, back in 2001. In that contest, the Spartans downed the Bulldogs by a 2-1 margin in the first round - it was MSU's last NCAA victory before Thursday's win over Oakland.
The lone regular-season meeting came on Sept. 10, 2006, a 2-0 MSU victory in Indianapolis.
MSU and Butler meet for the second time in NCAA Tournament play when they face off on Sunday. The previous meeting was in 2001 in the NCAA First Round.
In that contest, MSU was making a return to the NCAA Tournament after a 32-year absence. Butler took an early 1-0 lead in the 19th minute, but Michigan State's Craig Hearn tied the game before halftime and Steve Arce found Thomas Trivelloni in the 84th minute for the game-winning goal.
Michigan State played more than half its schedule (11 of 20 games) against teams which were selected for the 2010 NCAA Tournament. MSU is 4-7 in those games, which includes Thursday's victory over Oakland.
Among those teams, four captured their league tournament titles (Maryland/ACC, Akron/MAC, Michigan/Big Ten, Oakland/Summit), while two more advanced to the finals in their respective league tournaments: Providence fell in the BIG EAST finals to top-ranked Louisville, and New Hampshire fell on penalty kicks to Maryland-Baltimore County in the America East finals.
The most recent Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) was released on Monday (Nov. 15). The RPI is the major tool used by the NCAA men's soccer committee to select the field of 48 which qualifies for the NCAA Tournament; the RPI takes into account not only wins and losses by a team, but also its strength of schedule. Michigan State ranks 15th overall in RPI, the fourth among schools from the Big Ten.
MSU was ranked as high as fifth in the RPI this season, which occured in the first week that the rankings were released.
Nine of Michigan State's 17 regular-season opponents appear in the top 20 of the most recent RPI rankings. Of those teams, five of MSU's nine non-conference opponents appear in that top 20, including three in the top 10.
MSU played no. 1 Maryland (W, 4-3, OT), No. 4 Akron (L, 0-1), N No. 10 Notre Dame (W, 2-0), No. 12 Indiana (L, 0-3), No.13 Penn State (L, 1-2), No. 14 Michigan (L, 2-3, OT; L, 1-2), No. 16 Providence (W, 4-0), No. 17 Georgetown (L, 0-4), and No. 20 Ohio State (L, 1-2).
All seven of MSU's losses are to teams in the top 20 of the most recent RPI, five of those losses came on the road, and five were by a one-goal margin.
In addition to nine RPI top-20 teams on MSU's regular-season schedule this season, the Spartans played stiff compettion in its pre-season tuneups. The Spartans downed Duke (No. 21) in a 1-0 game at the National Soccer Festival, as well as playing Missouri Valley Champion Bradley (11-8-2) in its first exhibition contest.
Five Big Ten teams will compete in the NCAA Men's Soccer Championship: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State. The selections mark the third straight year and the fourth time in conference history that five or more teams have earned bids to the tournament. Wit. MSU advancing and the other four receiving byes, all five will be in action on Sunday,
The Big East led all conferences with seven teams in the tournament field, while the ACC and Big Ten each had five.
For the fifth consecutive season and 10th time in the past 11 seasons, the Spartans have won 11 games or more. MSU won 13 games in 2008 when the Spartans captured the Big Ten regular-season and Tournament titles.
In four of the last five seasons, MSU has won 11 regular-season contests, one shy of the most recent high of 12 in 1996.
The members of the Big Ten went a combined 64-46-13 (.573) during the regular season, with four sides - Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, and the Spartans - each winning at least 10 games.
MSU's non-conference opponents combined for an overall regular-season record of 113-72-31 (.594). Only two finished below .500 in their conference's play, and only four were under .500 overall. Five won 10 or more games, including 16-victory Akron and 14-win Maryland.
MSU has been led by seven seniors, who became the first class in Michigan State history to earn an NCAA Tournament bid in each of the four years of their playing careers.
The Spartans scored 28 goals in the 2009 season, and have put 39 on the board through 20 games this year. As much as an improvement as it was, it's still a long way from the school-record 77 scored by the Spartans in 1968.
MSU's 39 goals is the most since 2001, when the Spartans put up 41. That team also advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where it fell to Indiana.
Part of Michigan State's late-season struggles was due to several key players missing from the lineup. Head Coach Damon Rensing lost three back-line players in the first 30 minutes of the game against eventual Big Ten champion Indiana (Oct. 24), a contest the Spartans started without senior co-captain Jeff Ricondo. Ricondo missed the last seven games with injury, but could return for the NCAA Tournament's second-round contest. Sophomore center back Kevin Cope was one of the players lost in the early part ofe Indiana game; he tried to go but lasted just 10 minutes in the next game against Michigan (Oct. 30), and did not play against either Akron or Milwaukee. He returned for the Big Ten Tournament, as did senior fullback Jake Fullerton, who returned after missing the Akron and Milwaukee tilts as well.
Additionally, senior midfielder Nosa Iyoha returned to the lineup against Milwaukee after missing six games.
In all, Rensing's preferred starting 11 has missed 24 complete games this season.
MSU had two of the first three Offensive Player of the Week awards in the Big Ten this season. Spencer Thompson earned the honor on Sept. 13, and Cyrus Saydee shared the award on Sept. 20. Avery Steinlage was picked as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 20, giving MSU a near-sweep of the weekly awards. Saydee shared his weekly honor with senior Matheus Braga of Penn State.
Michigan State was represented in every category of the 2010 All-Big Ten Teams and Awards, as announced by the Big Ten Conference on Thursday, Nov. 11. Spencer Thompson and Colin Givens were named to the All-Big Ten First Team, with Givens one of four unanimous First-Team pics. Domenic Barone, Kevin Cope and Avery Steinlage each earned spots on the All-Big Ten Second Team. Josh Barens was selected to the All-Freshman squad, and Jeff Ricondo earned the Sportsmanship Award.
Michigan State's game at No. 6 Maryland to open the season was an instant classic - the two teams combined for three goals in a 28-second span within the final 90 seconds of regulation. Domenic Barone had the game-winner in the 96th minute for the MSU victory.
Michigan State fell in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, 2-1, to archrival Michigan. The Wolverines went on to capture the Big Ten Tournament title.
All the game scoring came in the second half of the matchup. Rubin Bega put the Spartans up 1-0 at 53:32, when Cyrus Saydee crossed the ball into the box for Bega, who tapped it in. The equalizer for Michigan came from Justin Meram in the 61st minute and then the go-ahead in the 77th minute of play by Soony Saad..
As a result, Michigan State was finished in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in three seasons.
Entering this weekend, the Spartans ranked second in the Big Ten in goals allowed (24), GAA (1.18) and shutouts (8), and are third in saves (90), goals (39), goals per game (1.95), assists (35) and rank fourth in assists per game (1.79)
Individually, Avery Steinlage leads the conference in saves (88), is second in the conference in shutouts (5), and third in GAA (1.17), save percentage (.793) and saves per game (4.5).
In the most recent NCAA statistical rankings, Michigan State is ranked 12th in total goals with 36 scored so far this season. The Spartans are also 17th in the country in scoring offense with an average of 2.0 goals per game. Dominic Barone is sitting at 24th nationally in goals per game (.57) and Spencer Thompson is ranked 19th in total assists with eight helpers this year.
MSU has allowed just five first-half goals this season of the 24 overall. The Spartan scoring is a little more even, netting 15 in the first half and 23 in the second.
Senior keeper Avery Steinlage is chiseling his name in the all-time career records at Michigan State. Entering Sunday's game, his career save percentage is .856, which would place him second in the career recordbook, and his 0.78 GAA would be fifth. He owns 34 career wins (tied for second with Paul Zimmerman) and 21 shutouts is second in the MSU record book to John Spink's 23.
Steinlage's 12 victories this season ties his career-best, set as a sophomore in 2008. Steinlage's 34 career victories is two shy of the all-time MSU record of 36, held by Reid Friedrichs, who went 36-18-6 from 1993-96.
Spencer Thompson and Jeff Ricondo, the Spartan captains, set an example by generating their best statistical seasons. Ricondo had a 3-4-10 scoring line, better than half his career-best 17 points, before being sidelined since mid-October with injury. In fact, had put points on the board in five of six games before getting injured in the Oct. 17 game against Wisconsin. In that span, he had two goals and three assists. Despite missing the last five games, he is still MSU's active leading career scorer with 12 goals and 15 assists for 39 points.
Thompson is enjoying the best statistical season of his career, with a team-best eight assists and a career-high three goals. He had a career-best five-point game against Providence (two goals, one assist). Thompson is one away from joining the all-time MSU top ten in single-season assists, and is currently tied for seventh place in career helpers (20).
MSU has three freshmen who have played significant minutes and roles on this season's Spartan team. Josh Barens earned a starting role on the back line, making 19 starts in 20 games. Versatile speedster Wesley Curtis has appeared in 18 games, and drew a starting nod in 13. Tim Kreutz is the top-scoring freshman with a goal and a pair of assists, and he has played in 18 games, getting one start.
Domenic Barone has taken three penalty kick chances for the Spartans this season, and has converted on two. The most recent came in the first-round NCAA game against Oakland. He had buried his first chance, coming in Oct. 17 game against Wisconsin. He was stopped on the second attempt, at Michigan - but fought back to net two second-half tallies in that regular-season contest.
Domenic Barone leads the team overall in scoring (10g, 3 a), and had a 3-1-7 scoring line in Big Ten games - netting a third of MSU's scores in Conference contests. No other player had more than one goal in Big Ten games.
Barone had his third two-goal game of the season against Oakland, and first since the Michigan game on Oct. 30.
Junior transfer Brent Rosendall has made an impression in his first season in Green & White. The Grand Rapids, Mich. native spent his first two seasons at Louisville, and joined the Spartans this fall. He is MSU's second-leading point scorer (20), and is second behind Domenic Barone on the team in goals (8).
Junior Cyrus Saydee is second on the team in assists, behind senior Spencer Thompson. Saydee entered his junior season with five career helpers, and has seven this year.
Senior fullback Jake Fullerton scored his first career goal at home against Providence on Sept. 9. He doubled his career total with a goal at home against Wisconsin (Oct. 17).
Sophomore center back Kevin Cope scored his first career goal on Sept. 22 at Duquesne, a tally which stood as the game-winner. His first goal came in his 28th game in Green and White. Cope is a second-year starter.
Senior center back Colin Givens, a two-time All-Big Ten pick (and unanimous pick as a senior) and Second Team All-Great Lakes Region performer as a junior, is one of the top defenders in the Big Ten, and along with sophomore Kevin Cope, forms one of the top defensive tandems in the Conference. Givens, along with classmate Spencer Thompson, trained with FC Toronto last summer in preparation of their then-impending senior seasons.
Senior co-captain Jeff Ricondo had put points on the board in five of six games before getting injured in the Oct. 17 game against Wisconsin. In that span, he had two goals and three assists.
Ricondo was selected as a CoSIDA First Team Academic All-Region selection. The senior is a marketing major with a 3.69 cumulative grade-point average. He has advanced to the national ballot
Michigan State was picked fifth in the Big Ten preseason poll of Conference coaches. Ohio State was selected as the conference favorite, followed by Indiana at No. 2 and Northwestern and Penn State tied for third place in the survey. Michigan and Wisconsin were picked sixth and seventh, respectively.
The Big Ten announced its "Players to Watch" list on Aug. 28. MSU's Players to Watch were Hermann Trophy Watch List candidate Avery Steinlage, along with senior classmates Spencer Thompson and Colin Givens.
Goalkeeper Avery Steinlage was named to the Missouri Athletic Club's Hermann Trophy Watch List for the 2010 season. Considered the highest individual honor in intercollegiate soccer, the recipients of the MAC's Hermann Trophy are selected by Division I head coaches who are current members of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA).
The Watch Lists - 39 men and 45 women's players from around the United States - is released in advance of the season. A list of 15 semifinalists is selected by a coaches committee in November, with three finalists announced in early December.
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