From kickoff until the final whistle, Michigan State was in the driver’s seat as they controlled the flow and tempo of the game against Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
The Spartan offense got going early when junior defender, Alex Gjonaj, delivered a ball from a free kick, 35 yards out, into the Mastodon 18-yard box, which found the foot of junior midfielder, Sarah Kovan, who volleyed the ball into the goal.
“My coach told me to take it and I’m a left-footed player and just said chip it in,” Gjonaj said.“I saw Sarah, but I was aiming for Mary Kathryn (Fiebernitz), but I got her first college goal so we were happy about that.”
Michigan State kept the offensive pressure going as they gave themselves four more scoring opportunities before Gjonaj knocked in the Spartans’ second goal in the 16th minute off a shot from inside the 18-yard box.
“Coming from left back I make a lot of runs. I saw Ally (Krause) cut in, so I busted my butt down there, got it, cut her in, went to go cross it, but it hit harder on my right foot so it slipped right under her arms,” Gjonaj said.
This is the second time this season that the Spartans have scored two goals in the first 10 minutes of a game, something they struggled to do last season.
“It’s critical. The first goal, as you know in college soccer, is incredibly important and a good indicator of how things usually go. Gives the team confidence,” MSU head coach Tom Saxton said. “Sarah got a nice touch on it. It was her first career goal and she works her butt off every day for three years. So happy that she got rewarded.”
With 40 minutes left in the game, MSU converted on another set piece, but this time it was a corner kick from senior forward Paige Wester who found the head of redshirt junior Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz.
“Well it was the second corner kick attempt and I think the second half and the first one was clearly in, whatever they didn’t see it,” Fiebernitz said. “Second one, we all did the same runs and then just kind of skidded off my head into the back post, so it was pretty simple.”
Being down 3-0 with 40 minutes left, the Mastodons did not give up, as freshman forward Kallianne Mogler crossed a ball into the Spartans’ 18-yard box from the left side, and found the head of Rachel Good, who slotted it into the bottom left corner.
“I want to give IPFW all the credit because they kept playing down 3-0, and as we made a couple subs, they caused us problems,” Saxton said.
Michigan State will play Western Michigan University on Sunday at 1 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium.
A Bronco team that knocked out No. 2 seed Marquette University in the 2013 NCAA Tournament.
“I think what we need to do really well is go into our individual battles strong and tough. Can’t back down. We got to be physical and aggressive because they are going to be coming at us. It’s going to be a war, and if we can do that I think everything else will start to flow,” Fiebernitz said.
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports