There was a different pep in the Lady Spartans’ step today during warmups, and it continued into the game against the University of Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers came out and set the tempo in the first 20 minutes as redshirt senior, Courtney Clem, was tested early and came up with two big saves in the third and 14th minute off two difficult shots.
Michigan State turned it on in the 26th minute as senior forward, Paige Wester, floated a cross into the box, which found freshman forward, Jamie Cheslik, who volleyed it into the post from the middle of the 18-yard-box.
“Last time I talked to you guys about the individual digging deeper and motivating themselves and just self-motivation,” redshirt junior defender, Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz said. “I think everyone digged a little deeper. They got through whether it’s an injury, sore legs or just the mental beat down of the losing streak and we were able to dig deeper and get through it.”
After missing on an opportunity, the Spartans dug deep and Cheslik fought her way past the Nebraska defense to get inside the box, which forced sophomore goalkeeper, Kelly Schatz, to come out and foul Cheslik inside the box for a penalty kick.
Moments later, Fiebernitz stepped up and buried the penalty kick into the bottom left corner of the goal to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead in the 29th min.
“When I take (PK’s) it’s a habit now,” Fiebernitz said. “Just put the ball in the back of the net, that’s all I was thinking. I’ve been switching it up a little bit and I can put the ball in the back of the net in either corner.”
The Cornhuskers put the pressure back on the Spartans three minutes later off a corner kick in which junior midfielder, Sarah Kovan, made a huge save by clearing the ball off the line that was shot past Clem.
The Spartans quickly turned the pressure around and four minutes later, Cheslik played a through ball to senior, Megan Marsack, who hit it through the legs of Schatz with her left foot to make it 2-0 in the 36th minute.
“I think (the goal) changed everybody’s attitude,” Marsack said. “We were up 2-0 and we haven’t been up in a while so everyone just got automatically happy and tries harder.”
At the beginning of the second half, Nebraska continued to put pressure on Michigan State by earning a few corners, but again the Spartans would turn the tides and earn more chances.
In the 58th minute, Cheslik would capitalize on a chance by dribbling past Cornhusker defenders from the right side of the field to the left side into the box and shot the ball over Schatz and into the back of the net to make it 3-0.
“You go into halftime 2-0 and you always say it’s the most dangerous score in soccer and to come out and get settled in and get that third goal I think takes the pressure off everybody,” head coach Tom Saxton said. “I think we’re still beat up in the back, so that third goal meant a lot to us.”
Nebraska would earn a foul inside the Spartan box in the 82nd minute, which would lead to a penalty kick that was converted by sophomore forward, Jaycie Johnson, to make the final score 3-1.
“I feel relieved for the players because they have kept working hard the whole time and it’s been a tough stretch,” Saxton said. “We’re in the final third. We had a great first third of the season, tough middle third while playing well most of the time and then know we’re in the final third and that was a good start to the final third.”
Michigan State is off until Oct. 11 when they head to Purdue University to take on a Boilermaker team that had lost five in a row, but have six points and sits in 10th place in the Big Ten standings, two spots ahead of the Spartans.
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports