A back and forth Mitten Derby between the Michigan State Spartans and Michigan Wolverines, in front of a record-breaking crowd of 3,003 at DeMartin Stadium, saw five goals in 90 minutes on Sunday.
The Wolverines got off to a quick start within the first minute when junior midfielder, William Mellors-Blair, got in behind the Spartan defense on a through ball and ripped a shot at junior goalkeeper, Zach Bennett, which Bennett easily saved.
The Spartans would counter with two set pieces and then in the sixth minute Michigan would earn a corner, which MSU would clear towards the top of the box where redshirt senior midfielder, Tyler Arnone, would be waiting. He struck it first time and into the back of the MSU goal.
“The guys headed it down and it was a scramble in the box and someone cleared it out, but not quite as far we would have liked,” Bennett said. “[Tyler Arnone] contained it and kind of just bombed it from the the top of the 18 and he just hit it before I really saw the ball.”
Being down a goal would not upset the Spartans as in the 15th minute, junior midfielder, Jay Chapman, would find senior forward, Adam Montague, on a through ball down the left side of the field. Montague would catch up to it and dribble into the Michigan box where he would strike a shot that would bounce off a Michigan defender and into the goal past redshirt senior goalkeeper, Adam Grinwis.
For the next 22 minutes, the back and forth action would continue as the Spartans would hit a few crosses into the Michigan box and Arnone would just miss the goal from 25 yards out in the 29th minute.
In the 38th minute though, another through ball from Chapman would find redshirt senior, Tim Kreutz, in the box where he would lay it off to junior midfielder, Jason Stacy, who would then find Chapman inside the six-yard-box who would tap the ball in to make it a 2-1 game.
“It was a pretty straightforward goal,” Chapman said. “I just kind of made a run into the box, I saw Timmy [Kreutz] running into the box and Jason [Stacy], so I just tried to get myself in a good spot to score and luckily the ball just came right to my foot and just tapped it in.”
The back and forth action would continue in the second half as both teams would earn set pieces early and find players in through balls, but the Wolverines would capitalize in the 54th minute off a cross from Mellors-Blair that would find the foot of freshman forward, Ahinga Selemani inside the six-yard-box where he would tap it into the back of the net.
“[Mellors-Blair] got around Brad [Centala] on the baseline and I couldn’t really decide if he was going to shoot it or cross it,” Bennett said. “He ended up putting a really close cross into the box and it knocked in near post, which is something you never want to give up as a keeper.”
Again, the Spartans would earn a set piece a few minutes after the goal and the ball in from Stacy off the corner would easily be caught by Grinwis.
In the 58th minute, the Wolverines would find the back of the net again, this time on a ball from Selemani to redshirt junior midfielder, Colin McAtee, who would turn and beat two MSU defenders and slot the ball into the far corner past Bennett, who came off his line to try to cut down the angle.
“The third was a bit of a breakaway,” Bennett said. “[Zach] Carroll was running along the guy the whole way and I couldn’t really tell when he was going to hit it or not and when he was going to hit it, and then he kind of got a good foot on it and it just got past me.”
The Spartans would have two or three good chances in the remaining 32 minutes, but the ball would either be played too far in front of a player or the Wolverine defense would make a key stop to prevent a shot or pass.
“I think it was a really emotional game. I mean, the crowd was awesome,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “I thought both teams played well and it was a great entertaining college soccer game, we just came up on the short end a little bit.”
Michigan State will finish the regular season against the Indiana Hoosiers on Wednesday in Bloomington, Indiana. The Hoosiers are currently tied with the Spartans in fifth place with 11 points.
“They’re a very good team and I think the team piece is spot on,” Rensing said. “They’re blue collar but they’ve got some good talent too. They’re playing really well, they pressure really well and their work rates very good, so they will be a difficult team to beat, but we’ve gone into places and have gotten results.”