After losing a close match to the Wolverines last Saturday, the Lady Spartans were looking to get back on track Thursday night, but could not break their winless streak in conference play against the Hawkeyes.
Michigan State came out with pace from the first whistle, but their urgency seemed to fade as the game went on and the sides constantly went back and forth down the pitch.
“I thought after the first half hour we didn’t deserve to get a result today,’” head coach Tom Saxton said. “Every game we have played to this point we have played well enough to win the game. Something happened today where we were tense for this game and something wasn’t right for us mentally.”
Michigan State had their chances to put the ball in the back of the net in the seventh minute when a corner kick from redshirt junior, Kirsten Evans, found the head of junior defender, Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz, but her header went over the Iowa goal.
Then their best chance of the half came off a cross from senior defender, Nicole Caruso, who whipped the ball into the Iowa six-yard-box and freshman midfielder, Morgan McKerchie, just missed getting a foot on it.
“It’s hard from the backline because you can see everything that’s going on in front of us,” junior defender, Alex Gjonaj said. “I mean, we’re not going to be hard on them, but like our coach says, you are going to win games with not just your defense. I mean you have to score up top.”
Iowa had their fair share of chances in the first half as well, with their best coming in the 25th minute off a corner kick from sophomore forward, Bri Toelle, which was hit towards the back side of the box. The ball bounced around and a shot from an Iowa player was blocked by a Michigan State defender.
The second half was an entirely different story as both teams continued to get up and down the pitch, but the Hawkeyes found the back of the net early to put themselves up 1-0.
In the 51st minute, the Hawkeyes earned a corner kick and sophomore defender, Corey Burns, whipped a ball to the top of the six-yard-box which found the head of senior defender, Melanie Pickert, who placed her header into the top-left corner of the goal.
“It was just off a corner kick and someone was supposed to mark No. 22 and she got lost in the mix and she finished,” Fiebernitz said. “She’s a good player and a good friend of mine and she is very good in the air. We talked about her in pregame to mark up and she just put it away.”
The Spartans had a few more scoring opportunities from set pieces, but their best chance to equalize came in the 76th minute, when Fiebernitz played a dangerous ball over-the-top to freshman forward, Jamie Cheslik, who got a touch on it, but junior goalkeeper, Hannah Clark, came off her line and grabbed the ball.
For the remaining 14 minutes, the Spartans had a few more chances, but could not make anything of them and fell to the Hawkeyes 1-0 in 90 minutes.
Michigan State will next play the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers on Oct. 5 at 1 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium. The Cornhuskers currently sit in 11th place with five points.
“It’s not like it’s fix this or fix this little thing,” Saxton said. “It’s hey, are you going to play or not? It’s kind of a watershed moment and it isn’t going to be easy for us because Nebraska from my tapes is a really good team.”
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports
Photo: Hannah McEnroe/Impact Sports