EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State field hockey earned its first win of the season on Sunday afternoon when it defeated Maine, 5-4 in overtime. It was the second straight overtime game to start the season for MSU, and Allie Ahern came up with the big goal to give MSU (1-1) the victory.
The Spartans earned a penalty corner just over a minute into the extra period that set up the game-winner. Kristen Matula sent in the entry pass that connected with Ahern, who sent a rocket into the bottom left of the net.
"You have to believe the process and that the ball is going to fall in eventually," said head coach Helen Knull. "We challenged the Maine goalkeeper and she had an excellent game. Rather than getting frustrated that the ball wasn't going in, we turned it into a positive, knowing that the ball is right there and we have chances on rebounds. To the girl's credit, they got the game over early in overtime. From a confidence perspective, getting the win today will help us going into next weekend. We have a lot to learn from this weekend and can start piecing things together now."
The first half was highlighted by an offensive explosion from the two teams, as they combined for seven goals and 26 shots in the opening frame. MSU jumped out early with goals from Megan Fenton and Claire Johnson in the game's first seven minutes. After Maine cut the deficit to one, Abby Barker dribbled 55 yards up the right sideline to score, extending the MSU lead to 3-1 in the 21st minute.
Maine responded with two goals in the following two minutes to tie the game up, before eventually taking the lead in the 32nd minute.
"We started out playing our game," said Knull. "We had good flow and off-ball movement. We took our foot off the gas and gave Maine opportunities. To give them credit, they played very well and aggressive. We were tested today, and we have to continue to clean our game up."
After allowing four goals in the first half, the MSU defense tightened up, allowing just three shots on goal after intermission. The Spartans tied the game up on Fenton's second goal of the afternoon in the 42nd minute, after she redirected a ball in front that got past the keeper.
"The girls put their mind to the game plan after the half," said Knull. "They started playing with a purpose. We made bad decisions in the defensive 25 in the first half, and that is what allowed some of those goals. We can?t allow teams to get ahead and have to claw our way back, especially when we set the tone so well from the beginning of the game."
MSU outshot the Black Bears 28-13 in the match. The 28 shots were the most since the Spartans defeated Pacific, 7-0, last season on Sept. 1.
"It feels good to get a win," said senior forward Allie Ahern. "It was hard because we could have won on Friday, but we moved on and it was important to get a win today. We said to keep peppering the keeper. Even if it is just a dump on goal, we can try and get a rebound. Getting that many shots on the cage gives our offense confidence."
Jenni Smith had a great opportunity to give the Spartans the lead with eight minutes remaining in regulation, but the ball ricocheted off the right post and out of bounds.
Michigan State heads east next weekend to play Saint Joseph's on Saturday at 1 p.m. and American on Sunday at 12 p.m. Both games will take place on the campus of American University.