In the last three years, the Spartans and Fighting Irish have met on the pitch five times. Three times during the regular season and two times during the NCAA Tournament.
The last time Michigan State beat Notre Dame was in 2010 when redshirt senior forward, Tim Kreutz, redshirt senior defender, Ryan Keener, and redshirt senior defender, Josh Barens, were freshman and adjusting to life in East Lansing.
Out of the three redshirt seniors, Barens was the only one to see the field that day in 2010 and he helped set up the first goal that would help lead the Spartans to a 2-0 victory.
Over the next five meetings, Michigan State would be outscored 10-1, with the lone goal coming against the Fighting Irish in their Elite Eight run in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Since that cold December night last year, 324 days have passed and every coach and player understands what this game means and the significance of it.
With Harrison Shipp now playing professional soccer for the Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer, Michigan State has one less player to worry about.
On Monday night, I was a guest on “The Pact,” and I was asked if Michigan State has a chance to beat Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.
I confidently responded, “yes,” because this is a team that is hungry for a win after dropping a tough loss to Oakland University and drawing against Northwestern, in a game they had multiple opportunities to put the game away.
Last year’s Michigan State team had a variety of talented players with a strong defense, but this year’s team is just as good even with the loss of All-American defender, Kevin Cope, and another solid defender in Ryan Thelen, to graduation.
I have seen what this offense is capable of, having watched them in practice and all last season, and they are waiting to break out of their cage again like they did against Western Michigan two week ago.
Similar to last year, this Michigan State team is anchored by a good defense in which freshmen defenders, Brad Centala and Jimmy Fiscus, have stepped up and played a huge role. Junior goalkeeper, Zach Bennett, has been nothing short of exceptional this year, and the transfer of junior defender, Zach Carroll, has complemented the team nicely as he made that a huge goal line save at Maryland this year and has four goals on the season.
After watching the team practice on Monday, they are ready to go into South Bend and take down the No. 5 team in the country. They are relaxed and focused for the task ahead and a relaxed and mentally tough Michigan State team is never easy to beat, no matter if they are on the road or at home.
It is going to take all their energy and strength to come away with the victory, but that is what defines the Spartans, and they understand that not leaving everything they have got out on the field will only produce a result that will come up short.
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports.
Photo: Hannah McEnroe/Impact Sports