MSU dominates Detroit Mercy en route to 4-0 win in Hosler’s coaching debut


MSU head women’s soccer coach Jeff Hosler meets with his team before the start of the 2021 season/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Luca Melloni, Men's/ Women's Soccer Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING – On Thursday evening, the Michigan State women’s soccer team secured a 4-0 victory over the Detroit Mercy Titans in their first game at DeMartin Stadium for the 2021 season. Former accomplished Grand Valley State forward Ava Cook scored her first goal for the Spartans in the opening minutes of the game and highlighted the promising future under newly hired head coach Jeff Hosler, also previously from Grand Valley.

Cook scored 76 goals during her time at Grand Valley and was named an unanimous All-American in 2018 and 2019. Her goal for the Spartans in the second minute of the game came off a great individual play which allowed her to turn and strike the ball into the bottom corner of the net inside the 18-yard box.

“We’re inventing a new system of play and a different mindset we want to play with,” Hosler said. “I thought we did that right off the opening whistle.”

The Spartans attacked the Titans through the middle of the field often and used the wide channels to create crossing opportunities for midfielders Gabriala Jodzis and Zivana Labovic.

MSU made it 2-0 in the 17th minute when a cross from midfielder Mya Fregoli on the right wing found redshirt freshman Justina Gaynor inside the 6-yard box, who swiftly placed it into the back of the net. 

Gaynor is one of three transfers that Hosler landed during the 2021 offseason; she was a key cog player in Butler’s 2020 season where it went 10-2 and secured a spot in the Big East Tournament championship game.

MSU transfer forward Justina Gaynor (31) rises for a header during Butler’s 4-0 win over Xavier on March 14, 2021/ Photo Credit: Butler Athletic Communications

“We wanted our midfielders to be involved in the attack and driving [forward],” Hosler said. “Our forwards are doing really well in having a sense of urgency and getting a goal.”

Going into halftime, the Spartans outshot the Titans by a herculean 16-1 margin and controlled the bulk of the possession on both ends of the pitch. Forward Lauren DeBeau, a transfer from Central Michigan, also had an impressive first outing in her first game in East Lansing.

The Spartans came out of the break with a similar lineup to the one they started the game with as defenders Samantha White and Abby Gardiner remained as the primary centerback pairing. 

With less than 10 minutes into the second half, the Spartans made it 3-0 with a goal from freshman forward Jordyn Wickes. Wickes lodged the ball away from Titan goalkeeper Jazmine Scott and scored into an empty net, the first goal and point of her collegiate career. 

“We played in our attacking half the whole time [in the second half], and we generated a ton of chances,” Hosler said. 

In the 60th minute, Labovic fired a rocket into the top right corner of the net from outside the box, making it 4-0 for MSU. A clever pass from senior forward Gia Wahlberg found last season’s top goalscorer in Labovic, who scored her first goal of the season.

MSU defender Zivana Labovic jostles for possession control during a game/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

“Getting this goal tonight meant a lot, and it definitely boosted my confidence, and I hope my team’s confidence as well,” Labovic said. 

Labovic ended last season with six points and three goals in her freshman season; she hopes to add more goals to her ongoing scoring tally this fall. 

“We were excited to be home and get the regular season started,” Labovic added.

Veteran midfielder Danielle Stephan played 51 minutes and had two shots on target in the second half; she led the team in assists last season with four. Overall, the Spartans used 11 substitutions throughout the night to experiment with the depth of the squad.

“It’s going to be very competitive for minutes,” Hosler said. “One of the challenges to the players is to maximize your minutes.” 

With less than a month until the Big Ten opener against the Indiana Hoosiers, MSU will prepare for its next home non-conference game as it takes on Eastern Michigan on Aug. 22 at 1 p.m.