After a game full of turnovers against the Valparaiso University Crusaders on Thursday, the Spartans regained composure and their shutout streak against the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers, 1-0 Sunday.
Right from the sound of the opening whistle, Michigan State began relentless pressure on Loyola’s defense.
“I thought the team showed some really good character and kept a clean sheet and needed a couple older veterans and leaders to step up and make a play,” MSU head coach Damon Rensing said. “We pressed them pretty high up the field and got some turnovers and never really let them get too deep.”
In the 12th minute, Michigan State earned a throw-in in the Ramblers’ final third. Sophomore midfielder Dewey Lewis tossed his throw into the middle of the 18-yard box, where redshirt senior defender Ryan Keener headed it wide of the goal.
Keener would get several more scoring opportunities, but Michigan State’s best chance to score in the first half was in the 20th minute when freshman defender Brad Centala found junior midfielder Jay Chapman off a cross at the top of the 18-yard box, where Chapman’s shot went right at Ramblers goalkeeper Tim Dobrowolski.
The pace of the game was not any different in the second half as Michigan State kept up the pressure and continued to earn throw-ins and free kicks deep in the Ramblers’ final third as well as corner kicks.
In the 56th minute, the Spartans were awarded another throw-in, which Lewis again took. His throw found senior midfielder Fatai Alashe in the middle of the 18-yard box, who struck a shot towards the goal that was blocked by a Loyola defender.
On the attack four minutes later, the Spartans earned a free kick between 40 and 50 yards away from the Ramblers’ goal, which junior midfielder Jason Stacy stepped over the ball and took.
“From that distance that is a 40-yard, 50-yard ball that you have to play in, and typically I am one that likes to whip it in with a nice little curve,” Stacy said. “From that distance it always has to be a nice driven ball and it’s always in that back six area, and we practice that every single day before a game, all of our set pieces.”
Stacy’s driven ball found the head of a leaping Chapman and he flicked it over Dobrowolski, who came out to try and punch it away and the headed ball found the back of the net.
“It was a pretty good goal,” Chapman said. “(MSU associate head coach) Kylie (Stannard) drills it into our heads. Restarts, restarts, restarts. It was a good cross from Jason (Stacy). I credit him for that. It kind of just came right to me. The goalie came out, which is a plus, and made it a little easier for it to go in. Kind of just tried to get it on target and it went in.”
After the Chapman goal, the Ramblers had their best chance to score off a free kick in the 75th minute, but freshman midfielder Kyle Thomson hit the ball over the net and out for a MSU goal kick.
“It obviously wasn’t our best performance offensively or even defensively,” junior goalkeeper Zach Bennett said. “It was sloppy at some times, but I think games like this and when you have a double-header kind of weekend, you just gotta really focus and grind it out and just find a way to win. We really did that. They got into some dangerous areas every now and then but the defense recovered well and cleaned it up.”
Michigan State opens up Big Ten play on Friday at the University of Maryland, who went 0-1-1 this past week, with a loss coming at the United States Naval Academy and a tie against the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich..
“It’s going to be an electric environment. We played there in 2010 and it’s a game the guys won’t forget based on the setting and then their tradition,” Rensing said. “It’s a different game when it’s at Maryland when they are home. We’ll be prepared. We’ll have to be smart about how we approach the game and we’ll be ready to go.”
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick at Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports