In a back and forth game in which Oakland University and Michigan State had multiple opportunities to take control of the game early, the Spartans fought through to earn a1-0 win.
It did not take the Spartans long to find scoring opportunities as four minutes into the game, senior forward Paige Wester crossed a ball into the 18-yard box, which found senior midfielder Megan Marsack who volleyed right at Oakland goalkeeper Allison Holland.
The Golden Grizzlies quickly countered six minutes later as freshman midfielder Vlad Gurovski hit a laser from outside the the 18-yard box, which forced MSU goalkeeper Courtney Clem to tip the shot over the crossbar for a corner kick.
“I think we should have had two or three in the first fifteen minutes and then they got momentum with some corner kicks and what not against us,” MSU head coach Tom Saxton said. “It was uneven and we didn’t calm down and connect our passes throughout the game, but we did get better defensively as the game went on. I thought that was the key.”
Michigan State’s best opportunity to score in the first half came in the 19th minute from a long ball played out of the back from redshirt junior defender Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz which found freshman forward Jamie Cheslik who poked the ball past Holland and Wester ran onto it, but could not finish after missing wide of an open net.
The Spartans would have a few more scoring opportunities in the first half, but were then limited in the second half as the Golden Grizzlies came out on the attack from the start and did not give MSU any good looks at goal for 27 minutes.
“I wouldn’t say it was our best game, but definitely we had to come together defensively and that is what we have been doing these last few games,” Clem said. “Just being really organized back there, and proactively talking ahead of time.”
In the 72nd minute, Wester had another goal scoring opportunity in which she faced a one-on-one challenge with Holland, flicked the ball over the goalkeeper and the ball was cleared by an Oakland defender.
As time approached the 90th minute mark, overtime looked almost certain until Marsack found Cheslik on a through ball that put her in a one-on-one situation with Holland. Cheslik poked the ball past the goalkeeper into the upper left side of the goal in the 89th minute to give the Spartans a late 1-0 lead.
“When Megan got the ball I looked and the whole field was wide open because they were playing with such a high line. The through balls were really open all game,” Cheslik said. “So when I saw that I saw that I had the whole field so I kind of ran as fast as I could and slowed down when I got near goal so I could calm down and place the ball instead of blasting it.”
With a minute left in the game, Oakland did not have much time to put one in the back of the net and the Spartans walked out with a 1-0 win against the Golden Grizzlies.
“I think (Jamie) has been very good. She’s got great pace and she is a clam finisher and I think tonight you saw her maybe miss a couple early that she probably would want to have back and to use your phrase earlier, ‘perseverance,’ was the key for her,” Saxton said. “She stayed in it mentally and made the play at the end. That’s nice to see out of a freshman. Not only does she have talent, but she’s got the right mentality.”
The Spartans will host Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne on Friday, Sept. 5 at DeMartin Stadium.
“We have to continue to build on our team defensive success and make that a standard. I think the shutout string is something they are going to take more pride in and walk on the field with determination there, but we have to continue our connections offensively,” Saxton said. “Maybe subbing a lot isn’t always the best thing for them to be comfortable with each other, but we got to work hard in practice at figuring each other out.”
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports.
Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports