Oct. 27, 2006
EAST LANSING, Mich. - With its Big Ten Tournament hopes on the line, the Michigan State women's soccer team responded with a big win. Senior Jenee Witherspoon (Midland, Mich./Midland) was the catalyst, dropping in the lone goal in the 62nd minute, lifting the Spartans past Michigan, 1-0, in the Big Ten regular-season finale at Old College Field on Friday afternoon.
Unfortunately for Michigan State (8-9-1 overall, 4-6 Big Ten), the Spartan postseason hopes were dashed when Wisconsin (6-8-3 overall, 3-5-1 Big Ten) defeated Northwestern, 5-0, in an 8 p.m. game, clinching the eighth and final Big Ten Tournament playoff slot.
"I'm excited for our team and especially for our seniors," head coach Tom Saxton said. "We've been talking the last month about playing consistently for 90 minutes. Against Minnesota and again today against Michigan, we put together a full 90 minutes, so that was exciting."
The Spartans got their chance in the 62nd minute when freshman Lauren Sinacola (Rochester, Mich./Adams) beat a defender and took a shot off the crossbar from just inside the goalbox. Witherspoon was able to drive in before the Michigan keeper could recover and kicked the ball into the open net off the rebound.
"The goal was set up by Lauren Sinacola," Witherspoon said. "I just happened to follow it in for the rebound. It's just one of those things where I was trying anything and follow it in, so that was what I was looking for."
It was the senior's first goal of the year and helped her reach 25 career points, becoming just the 38th player in school history to reach the mark. She also played in her 80th career game, becoming one of just seven players in school history to reach that mark. Witherspoon, who has six goals and five assists in her career, started the season as a defender before moving up midway through the season.
The Spartans were able to keep the Wolverines (8-6-5 overall, 4-3-3 Big Ten) off the board despite several close calls, including a leaping save from junior Nicole Galas (Sterling Heights, Mich./Bishop Foley) with 10 seconds left on a shot from the left side of the field from Melissa Dobbyn.
In a game marked by hard midfield play that included 34 fouls, Michigan State took just nine shots in the game, but limited Michigan to eight, the fifth time in Big Ten play MSU held opponents to fewer than 10 shots.
Galas made five saves to tally her sixth shutout of the season, while Michigan keeper Megan Tuura, who leads the Big Ten in goals against average, made two stops.