Michigan State (12-4-3, 4-2-1 Big Ten) and Indiana (7-11-2, 2-4-0) played as two equivalent teams Sunday, as expected in the Big Ten Tournament finale.
What was not expected was that something as trivial as the wind ended up becoming a substantial part of the game and dictated the final score.
“The wind was a factor,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “We knew we should try to take the wind in the first half because it could change or slow down and decrease momentum.”
The Spartans would get their wish as Indiana won the pre-game coin flip, and strategically elected to have the 15-20 mph wind at their backs in the second half of the match.
In the first half, with the substantial wind at the Spartans’ backs, MSU forced Indiana goalkeeper, Colin Webb to make six saves on ten shots, while the Hoosiers were only able to generate five total shots against Spartan goalie, Zach Bennett.
Unfortunately, the Spartans were unable to capitalize on their time with the wind advantage and score a first half goal that, head coach Damon Rensing stated, was essential to winning Sunday’s Championship game.
“Fortunately, we had three or four or five really good chances,” Rensing said. “We hit the post and probably needed to get a goal that half.”
The Hoosiers would enter the second half, tied 0-0, with the advantage.
And their strategy would pay off, as Indiana would begin to offensively dictate the match early in the second half due to the wind advantage.
In the 66th minute of play, the wind changed the score of the game.
MSU goalkeeper Bennett attempted a drop kick only to see the wind take control of the ball and place it unexpectedly at the feet of Indiana’s A.J. Corrado along the right sideline. The senior midfielder eventually would run the ball out of bounds, giving MSU a goal kick. Bennett kicked a low bouncing ball directly to Indiana’s Jamie Vollmer at midfield.
Vollmer would take full advantage of the keeper’s mistake by instantly attacking MSU defender Ryan Thelen, taking one sizable touch to the center of the field and ripping an 18-yard shot past Bennett for the first goal of his four-year career.
“I’d have to look at the film again. (Bennett) might have just miss hit a ball,” Rensing said. “Sometimes when you’re playing against the wind you really feel like you have to smack it and maybe he tried to over hit it. I don’t know. That’s a question for (Bennett). That happens sometimes and it just happened to go right to their guy too.”
The Spartans still had 24 minutes to find an equalizer, but ultimately MSU would not be able to level the game as the tournament would end with a 1-0 Hoosier victory.
“I thought we responded great,” Rensing said. “We talked about it and pushed some numbers forward and actually created a couple things and thought we might have got something. We played well the whole game. When you’re playing against the wind in those conditions, and Indiana is a pretty good attacking team, you’re going to have some spells where maybe they’re getting the play. But we clearly were every bit as even if not had more dangerous chances in the game. I’m very proud of our guys and how they played.”
Jonathan Yales is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever