EAST LANSING, Mich. – As the clock struck noon on Monday, 27 men’s soccer players and their head coach eagerly waited to see where their 12-5-3 record would place them in the NCAA tournament.
It took nine minutes for the Spartans to get that answer, but that eagerness quickly turned into cheers as they saw that they earned an 11 seed.
“That’s good for our program. Every time we can make the NCAA tournament, that puts us in the national spotlight and that is what we want,” redshirt junior Ryan Kenner said. “We haven’t always been the most respected. We feel like we don’t always get the credit we deserve. So this gives us an opportunity to show that we belong and to make a statement.”
As an 11 seed in the tournament, the Spartans are one of 16 teams that earned a first-round bye and a home game for the second round of the tournament.
“We feel good and we feel it’s well deserved…We put ourselves in position to get a seed like that, so right now we are just worried about ourselves,” redshirt junior Tim Kreutz said.
Kevin Cope, Ryan Kenner and Adam Montague are currently battling injuries, but their injuries have not sidelined them for the NCAA tournament.
Kenner injured his hamstring during the Big Ten tournament semifinal game on Friday against Northwestern, while Cope has been battling a fractured rib since the beginning of the season, and Montague has been battling a knee injury since the game against the University of Akron.
“You gotta make (injuries) a non-factor…Kevin’s been banged up and you haven’t heard him say a word,” Kenner said. “No one in the box score says 1-0 but they had hurt ribs or a hurt hamstring. So that stuff you just have to fight through and make it a non-factor.”
The Spartans will play the winner of the University of Louisville (11-4-3) vs. the University of Denver (13-3-3) on Sunday at 1 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium.
Brooks Laimbeer is a multimedia journalist for Corner Kick.
Photos: David Defever
Video: Jonathan Yales