MSU hosts rivals Michigan for Big Bear Trophy


Greyson Mercer dribbles the ball against Chicago State University. Sept.12,2022 Photo Credit: Sarah Smith/WDBM

Luca Melloni, Sports Editorial Assistant

EAST LANSING – There is no bigger day on the Michigan State men’s soccer calendar than the rivalry game against Michigan for the Big Bear Trophy. The Spartans (2-4-2) host the Wolverines (3-4-2) on Tuesday night in their second game of the Big Ten season. 

“When you have a traveling trophy, anytime you can pick it up at the end of the game and bring it over to your sideline it always adds a little extra,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “We’re looking forward to it, and there’ll be a great crowd.” 

The Big Bear Trophy started in 2000 when former Michigan head coach Steve Burns found a wooden bear in northern Michigan with one green eye and one blue eye. Burns and former MSU head coach Joe Baum split the cost to turn the bear into a trophy. 

“I always think it should be the Burns-Baum Big Bear Trophy because those are the two coaches that started it,” Rensing said. “It’s a unique thing.” 

Michigan State leads the series with Michigan 33-12-17 but has not earned a win since 2017. It was DeJuan Jones who scored the winner in the 1-0 outing on Sept.17, 2017. The record is currently 16-3-4 in East Lansing.

The Spartans tied 1-1 against No. 16 Indiana last Friday, and it was forward Greyson Mercer who snatched the equalizer at the 71st minute.

Captain Louis Sala picked up a red card in the final seconds of the Indiana game that will leave him out of Tuesday’s contest. 

“It was a curious red card,” Rensing commented. “The goal was a great service from [Louis] Sala and a great finish from Greyson [Mercer].” 

Mercer recorded his second goal of the season and is gradually becoming the primary target up top for MSU.

“It was good for his confidence, and he’ll be ready to go on Tuesday,” Rensing said. 

On the other hand, the Wolverines earned a 3-1 victory over Northwestern last Friday. Inaki Rodriguez, Kevin Buca and Quin Rogers were the goalscorers that led Michigan to its third win of the season. 

Michigan will go against a familiar face in MSU goalkeeper Owen Finnerty, who spent three seasons in Ann Arbor. Finnerty kept a clean sheet in the second round of the 2019 NCAA tournament as a freshman against Wright State and recorded a clean sheet in the Big Ten semifinal against Penn State that same year. 

Finnerty played high school at Detroit Catholic Central and has made professional appearances for Las Vegas Lights in USL and Detroit City FC. 

The spotlight will be on Finnerty as he faces his former school for the first time. 

Kickoff for Tuesday’s Big Bear Trophy game against Michigan is scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be streamed on Big Ten Network.