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Spartans Face Notre Dame in NCAA Elite Eight

Ryan Thelen and the Spartan defense lead the Elite Eight teams with a .64 goals against average.

Dec. 5, 2013

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Coach Rensing's Weekly Press Conference

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The 11th-seeded Michigan State men’s soccer team (14-5-3) will head to South Bend, Ind., for a rematch against third-seeded Notre Dame (14-1-6) in the NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal on Saturday, Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.

11th-seeded Michigan State is making its 16th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, and sixth in the last seven years. Head Coach Damon Rensing is making his fourth appearance in five seasons at the helm of the Spartans. With MSU’s shutout win at Georgetown on Sunday in the NCAA third round, the Spartans advanced to the Round of Eight for the first time since 1968. MSU is also the only team left to represent the Big Ten conference in the tournament.

Interactive NCAA Tournament Bracket

MSU owns an all-time tournament record of 22-10-5, including 3-0 in the Round of Eight. The team has made four appearances in the National Championship games, including two Co-National Championship titles in program history (1967 and 1968).

The Spartans hold an all-time record of 6-15-4 over third-seeded Notre Dame, with the most recent meeting between the two teams resulting in 2-0 loss for MSU in East Lansing on Nov. 4. With a 14-1-6 record, the Irish tied Maryland to earn a share of the ACC Regular Season Championship in its first season in the conference. Making its 16th NCAA appearance and third trip to the quarterfinals, Notre Dame is 12-14-1 all-time in the tournament.

In the rankings, Notre Dame is No. 1 in the poll, third in the official NSCAA poll, the NCAA RPI Rankings and by, as well as No. 4 in the College Soccer News poll, by Soccer America and by College Sports Madness.

In his 13th season as head coach, Booby Clark owns a 166-69-41 record and returned 12 letterwinners from the 2012 BIG EAST Tournament Championship squad that finished 17-4-1 overall with a 5-2-1 record in its final year in the BIG EAST. The Irish are led by Harrison Shipp (12-5-32), Patrick Hodan (8-5-21) and Vince Cicciarelli (6-1-13). In goal, Patrick Wall owns a 0.72 GAA with a .797 Sv%, playing the entirety of Notre Dame’s games this season.

In the NCAA men’s soccer RPI rankings released on Nov. 20, Michigan State improved to No. 12 in the nation. The Spartans remain the 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. 8 by, 14th in the official NSCAA poll, 15th by College Sports Madness, No. 18 in the College Soccer News poll and No. 20 in the poll. Regionally, the Spartans tied for third with Marquette in the final NSCAA Great Lakes poll.

The Spartans (3-2-1) finished third in the Big Ten standings. MSU leads the Big Ten in with 13 shutouts, fewest goals allowed (15), total saves (121) team goals against average (0.64), total assists (42) and assists per game (1.91). The Spartans also sit at second in total shots (346), and total points (108).

In the NCAA standings released on Dec. 1, MSU has the second-best save percentage (.890) in the nation. They are also tied for No. 4 in shutout percentage (.59), tied for seventh in total assists (42), sit at No. 9 with a .64 team goal against average, are No. 13 in assists per game (1.91) and tied for 20th with 5.50 saves per game. Also, of the Elite Eight teams, Michigan State owns the best team goals against average in the NCAA Tournament.

Earning its program record-tying 13th shutout of the season, Michigan State outlasted sixth-seeded Georgetown with a 1-0 win on Sunday in Washington, D.C. It is the first time the Spartans have advanced the NCAA Tournament Round of Eight since 1968, when they earned a share of the NCAA Championship title. The Spartans 14th win of the season puts 2013 in the record books for the most wins in program history.

Though the Hoyas imposed pressure from the kickoff, forcing the Spartans to spread out defensively, a goal in the 28th minute from Adam Montague off a ball played in by Jay Chapman gave the Spartan defense all they needed to hold off the Georgetown attack. Stepping up in the net, Zach Bennett tallied seven saves on the day to improve his career total to 119, the fifth best in MSU history. He also earned his 16th career shutout, also placing him at No. 5 in the Spartan record books.

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.

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.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 and recorded two assists 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 15 and goals against average (0.64) and has played in nine of the Spartan’s 13 shutouts this season.

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://youtube/NEuuz1RX6KU.

A total of seven members of the Michigan State men’s soccer team received postseason honors from the Big Ten, as announced by the conference office on Nov. 14. Tim Kreutz, Jay Chapman and Kevin Cope were all named First-Team All-Big Ten, while Adam Montague received Second-Team All-Big Ten honors. Andrew Herr and Dewey Lewis were both named to the All-Freshman Team and Wesley Curtis was MSU’s Sportsmanship Award recipient. Three players named to the First-Team All-Big Ten is the most since 2008, and the second most all-time.

With MSU’s shutout win over Georgetown, the 2013 will forever be etched into the Spartan record books. The Spartans’ 13th shutout of the season tied the program record and led them to their 14th win of the season, the most ever single-season wins in MSU history. Also climbing the individual career records, goalkeeper Zach Bennett improved his career total saves to 119, the fifth-best in MSU history. He also earned his 16th career shutout, also placing him at No. 5 in the Spartan record books.

This season, the Spartans have played in some of the toughest environments in college soccer. MSU has posted a 6-1-2 record on the road this season, including 2-0-2 against ranked-opponents with their only road loss coming at Wisconsin who is undefeated at home this season.

The Spartans have battled their opponents through a total of seven double-overtime games this season, tying for the most in MSU history. The last time Michigan State has played in as many overtime games was under Joe Baum in 1995. Earning three game-winning goals within the final four minutes of the game, the Spartans own a 3-1-3 record in overtime games this season.

Through 22 games this season, MSU has outshot its opponents, for a total of 346-340. 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 15.7 shots per game. A total of 17 Spartans have contributed to the offensive shooting, led by Tim Kreutz (64), Adam Montague (51), Jay Chapman (48) and Sean Conerty (39).

The Michigan State backline has been nearly perfect thus far in the 2013 season, only allowing 15 goals in 22 games (0.68 avg.), first in the Big Ten. MSU is also first in the conference with 13 shutouts this season, tying the program record. In the last six games, the Spartans have only allowed one goal. In the NCAA standings released on Dec. 1, the Spartans hold the second-best save percentage in the country (.888) and are currently tied for fourth in the nation in shutout percentage (.59).

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 leads the conference with 64 shots and is second with 22 points. Kreutz is also tied for second with his nine-goal total on the season.

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 3.40 shot per game average leads the conference and he is third with 0.40 assists per game. Montague 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 13 shutouts (0.59 shutouts/game) with a 0.64 goals against average. He also sits at first with a .888 Sv%. Nationally, he owns the third-best save percentage in the country and is No. 13 with his 0.64 GAA. He is currently fifh in MSU history with 119 saves on the season.

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. 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 return 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.

Just one minute after entering the game, Adam Montague sent in a left-footed target to the upper-left-hand corner of the net to give MSU a huge 1-0 lead and earn the his fourth game-winning goal of the season to upset Georetown advance the Spartans to the Elite Eight. For his performance, he was named to the College Soccer News and National Teams of the Week on Dec. 2.

In recognition of his stout defensive effort with the help of the rest of the Spartan backline to hold off the Georgetown offensive attack, Kevin Cope was placed on the College Soccer News Team of the Week on Dec. 2.

Earning his fourth game-winning goal, ninth overall, of the season in double-overtime against Louisville on Nov. 24, Tim Kreutz helped the Spartans advance to the Sweet 16 for the 10th time in school history. For his accomplishment, he was named to the College Soccer News Team of the Week.

With an assist on the game-winning goal and helping shutout Louisville for 106 minutes, Kevin Cope was named to the National Team of the Week on Nov. 25.

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.

With MSU’s shutout win at Georgetown on Sunday in the NCAA third round, the Spartans advanced to the Round of Eight for the first time since 1968. The victory also marked the first time in program history that MSU has recorded 14 wins in a single season.

In his first start of the year, Kyle Rutz helped MSU 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. The win propelled MSU to the top spot in the NCAA RPI rankings for the first time in program history.

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.

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 57-38-12 (.589) in his five seasons as head coach, but MSU boasts a 136-78-24 (.622) 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 on Sunday will be streamed live online at WatchND.TV. Follow along through live stats available at and follow @MSUMSoccer on twitter for play-by-play updates during the game.



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