A stunning goal from senior Kirsten Evans capped a 3-1 victory for the Michigan State women’s soccer team, advancing their record to 8-5-4 (4-4-2 B1G).
“It’s amazing [to get the win]…we have put in time and put in effort and this is what we deserve,” Evans said. “When we work and we focus and we believe in ourselves, we’ll get the result we want.”
A sizable, loud crowd turned out to DeMartin Stadium on Sunday afternoon as the Spartans hosted their final game of the 2015 season.
Two converted penalties from Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz and a final goal from Evans were the difference as MSU kept their playoff hopes alive.
It was a busy first half for the Spartans as they tallied 15 shots to take a 2-1 lead at the break. While they looked dangerous on attack, it was actually the referee who played a part as both goals came from penalties.
Michigan State’s first penalty came when forward Jamie Cheslik made a dangerous run toward the edge of the box before being brought down by an Indiana defender.
Fiebernitz stepped up to take the spot kick and hit it low, right into the net past a diving Hossier goalkeeper Sarah Stone.
The Spartans did not have to wait too long to double their advantage as Alexandra Gjonaj took a free kick and sent it long into the box. The Indiana defense had difficulty picking up the ball and the referee awarded another penalty to MSU.
Once again it was Fiebernitz who took the penalty and delivered the same result, the Spartans going two goals up inside 25 minutes.
It was a real sense of relief for the Spartan captain, who said the game was a confidence booster after a frustrating week in practice.
“Yesterday in practice I missed twice and it was pretty frustrating,” Fiebernitz. “To bounce back and get those two today is just a confidence builder.”
At the time, MSU coach Tom Saxton gave credit to his staff.
“Sometimes you don’t let the same player take two [penalty kicks]in a row in a game and they convinced me to do so,” Saxton said. “So I’m happy about that”.
MSU continued to press forward, but on one of their few ventures forward, Indiana was awarded a questionable penalty after a handball inside the box. Midfielder Jessie Bujouves took the kick and converted to get her team back into the game.
The Spartans came out a little slow in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, Saxton acknowledged.
“We needed some fresh legs in our midfield and up front and we made that adjustment quickly,” Saxton said.
Indiana were maintaining possession but could not make the most of their opportunities.
Cassidy Blacha had a wonderful opportunity to equalize 10 minutes into the second half, but her header from a cross into the box was inches over the bar.
The Hoosiers continued to look dangerous, causing problems for the MSU defense. Their best chance of the half came when a sliding tackle from MSU freshman Michaela Kovacs brought Kayla Smith to the ground.
Bujouves took the resulting free kick but her shot was high and wide to the left of the target.
After slowly wrestling control back, the Spartans would eventually make Indiana pay. A corner with eight minutes remaining in the game was taken by Evans, who curled the ball around the right side of the near post and into the net.
“The wind was on my side and the curve and the bend of the ball and I just couldn’t be happier,” Evans said.
Fiebernitz had high praise for Evans after the game.
“I got to see the entire thing unfold and she [Evans] just bent that thing front post,” Fiebernitz said. “It was amazing!”
Michigan State will play their final game of the season against Ohio State on Wednesday, October 28. With a win, the Spartans have a chance of moving on into the Big Ten tournament.