EAST LANSING, Mich. — No. 14-ranked Michigan State defeated the No. 17 Akron by a score of 2-1 on Tuesday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium.
The first half was a battle of the midfield, as both the Spartans and the Zips struggled to create shots on goal. A total of three shots were put on net throughout the half, one by Michigan State and two by Akron.
“We knew Akron was a very possession-based team,” sophomore striker Ryan Sierakowski said. “They are very susceptible to the counter,so when we did win the ball, if the counter is on, we went for it and in these types of games we just have to put them away.”
The first of those chances came in the 22nd minute when Sierakowski was brought down in the box and a foul was given to set up a penalty kick. Sierakowski converted the kick for a team-leading seventh goal of the season, and gave the Spartans a 1-0 lead.
“I’ve been able to score goals, that’s my job as a striker,” Sierakowski said. “Last year, I put a lot of pressure on myself with that role, and this year I’m more comfortable in it. If I’m not scoring, I want to create and just continue to do my job.”
Michigan State kept up the pressure in the second half, eventually creating a corner kick in the 53rd minute. Ryan Scott delivered the kick into the box, and after bouncing around a bit, sophomore Hunter Barone was able to find the back of the net for his second goal of the season. Ryan Scott and Jimmy Fiscus were credited with assists.
“I think Jimmy [Fiscus] got a flick on it, so credit to him, and the ball kind of just fell right to me and was just there for me to tap in,” Barone said.
The last 20 minutes of the game became dangerous for the Spartans after Akron countered with a goal by Skye Harter in the 71st minute. Minutes later, two red cards were given to the Akron, one to an assistant head coach in the 73rd minute, ejecting him from the game, and one to Ezana Kahsay, giving the Spartans an 11 to 10 player advantage in the 75th minute.
“I think the red card helped us because it just gave us an extra player on the field and we were able to break some pressure,” Michigan State coach Damon Rensing said. “They were getting some rhythm, so that certainly helped us.”
A late surge was created for Akron after MSU sophomore DeJuan Jones was taken out of the game due to an apparent left leg injury. Akron’s Nick Hinds stopped a 3-on-1 attack in the 87th minute to give the Zips one last chance.
“I think we had four or five good chances, and we took care of two of them, which was all we needed,” Barone said.
The game was the last of a three-game home stretch for the Spartans. MSU will leave East Lansing after defeating Western Michigan 2-1 in overtime on October 5th, and then going into double overtime with Wisconsin on October 9th to come away with a 1-1 draw.
“For our guys to play Sunday, go to school Monday, train Monday, come here, go to school till 1:30, and then come out and play, that’s a special sign of some character and some fortitude. So I give our guys all the credit in the world for this win,” Rensing said.
With this win, the Spartans improve their record to 9-2-1 (3-1-1 B1G) and remain undefeated at DeMartin,and stay in a tie for second place in the Big Ten standings.
“That’s huge. I mean, you gotta win your home games. I was very proud of the guys and we’ve had a tough schedule here with both Big Ten and non-conference games,” Rensing said.
The Spartans will now travel to play Penn State this Saturday at 7:00 p.m.
“It’ll be a very good game, they’re well coached,” Rensing said. “It’s a pivotal point in the Big Ten. So, if we can go in there, and just continue what we’re doing and play well and a couple breaks go our way, maybe we’ll come out on top.”