EAST LANSING – On a cold, rainy October day, University of Oakland and Michigan State men’s soccer programs clashed at DeMartin Stadium. In wet conditions, both teams looked to put shots on goal and force the goalkeepers to make the stop.
By the time the final whistle blew, Oakland and MSU had put up 19 and 12 shots respectively. Despite the Golden Grizzlies having the advantage in shots, they were unable to get past the Spartans’ senior keeper, Zach Bennett. Bennett’s shutout helped MSU continue to a 2-0 win.
“I think Zach (Bennett) played like a next-level keeper today,” MSU head coach Damon Rensing said. “His range on crossing, shot-stopping, and his hands to hold or push things out of danger…that’s what you need.”
Bennett was needed less than three minutes into the match, making a diving stop to keep the game scoreless. He remained busy for the first seven minutes as Oakland controlled the ball and pace of play.
“On the first save you get a little bit lucky and it gets stuck underneath you, if you’re a little bit late on that it’s going underneath you for a goal,” Bennett said. “A little bit of luck to get you started is never a bad thing.”
MSU’s first scoring chance came eight minutes into the contest, with a shot by DeJuan Jones that sailed high over the goal. However, the Spartans’ were able to capitalize on their next opportunity.
At the 12:25 mark, the rain started to pour, along with MSU’s shots on net. As the ball bounced around the box, it eventually found its way to the feet of freshman forward Ryan Sierakowski who buried his shot past the Oakland goalie. Sierakowski’s sixth goal of the season was assisted by Jones and Jason Stacy.
Roughly four minutes after MSU’s goal, a foul was called near midfield close to the teams’ benches. Oakland players and coaches did not agree with the foul call. Oakland’s head coach, Eric Pogue, was especially upset with the call and was issued a yellow card.
In minute 21 of the game, Michigan State stretched its lead to two with a Jimmy Fiscus goal. Kenny Krolicki got the ball in the box and found the sophomore defender, Fiscus, sitting on the edge of the box. Fiscus was able to control the ball with a left-footed one-touch shot and bend it around the outstretched arms of the Oakland goalie. It was his first goal of the season and it was assisted by Krolicki and Zach Carroll.
Almost four minutes later, another foul was called close to midfield near the benches. Again, players and coaches argued. And again, Oakland’s head coach took it too far and got his 2nd yellow card of the game, resulting in a red card and ejection from the match. After leaving the stadium, he chose to watch the remainder of the game from the top of the softball stadium stands.
One of Oakland’s best scoring chances came at the 56 minute mark. The Golden Grizzlies pressured, the initial shot was blocked by a diving Bennett, the ball bounced to a wide-open Oakland player, and his (what seemed to be) wide-open shot met the goal-saving foot of junior midfielder Dewey Lewis.
“Today I’m going to do everything worldly possible to keep this shutout,” Bennett said. “I just really had that mentality start to finish that I’m not giving up a goal today.”
After a game full of rain, wind, shots, and fouls, the clock finally hit 0:00 and the Spartans were victorious.
“I thought we did some very good stuff…I thought we broke some of their pressure, played through some seams, and created a lot of dangerous chances,” Rensing said.
MSU came into the match versus Oakland on a two-game losing streak. DeMartin Stadium was a sight to sore eyes for MSU after losing at No. 4 Akron 4-1 and at Northwestern 1-0.
Michigan State men’s soccer is now 8-6-2 (2-2-2).
The team’s next match is Halloween night, this Saturday in Ann Arbor, MI versus the University of Michigan. The Wolverines are 7-4-4 (2-2-2) and 5-2-2 at home for the season. The game will be played at 5:00 PM and broadcast on the Big Ten Network. The two teams will be competing for the Big Bear trophy that goes to the winner of the in-state battle.
“It’s going to be a really good in-state Halloween rival,” Rensing said. “I think it will be a very good soccer game and the people that come watch will be entertained.”