Playing in their first game at DeMartin Soccer Complex this season, the Michigan State women’s soccer team defeated Eastern Michigan 3-0, with goals coming from Megan Marsack, Allyson Krause and Rachel VanPoppelen.
One of the main themes this off-season for the Spartans was attention to defense as well as defensive restarts.
“We played really good on defense, cleared out every corner,” Marsack said. “(Courtney) Clem played really good in goal. She’s been playing really well all season.”
Head coach Tom Saxton has also seen improvements from the Spartans’ first three games and was happy with the performance of the defense.
“It was good for the most part in terms of team organization,” Saxton said. “I think there were some individual breakdowns of people maybe not being as sharp as they were (in the past couple games). I do think we’re continuing to solidify our team defensively.”
The Spartans came out flat with EMU dominating possession early, but neither side was able to get a quality shot on net. That changed in the 15th minute on a MSU corner kick taken by Alex Gjonaj that found the foot of Marsack, who volleyed it in to take a 1-0 lead.
The momentum continued to shift towards the Spartans’ side as they pressured better after the goal. After the first 10 minutes the Spartan defense settled in and did not give the Eagles many chances. Goalkeeper Clem was not overly active in goal, with her most challenging shot in the first half coming from a well struck ball 25 yards out.
Michigan State began the second half carrying over the momentum from their first half goal. The Spartans matched the intensity of the Eagles from the beginning of the game and the midfields were a even match up, both linking together well and pressuring each other.
Michigan State had another chance in the 50th minute when Paige Wester, Lisa Vogel and Marsack linked up in the box with a few short passes. Vogel got a shot off, which was saved by EMU goalkeeper Jenna O’Dell, who then made a diving save from a shot from Marsack.
The Spartans had a few good chances squandered in the box through too many touches or passes, but they could not be denied. In the 61st minute, Jaime Cheslik broke down the right sideline and slid a perfect ball across the box for Krause to knock in, bringing the score to 2-0 Michigan State
Saxton has focused heavily on defense this offseason and the growth offensively is showing.
“I think the main thing we saw today was that we have a lot of individuals that can step up…” Saxton said. “I think we have a lot of weapons and it’s our job to put together the right combinations.”
After the second goal, the Eagles looked tired and flat-footed. The defensive communication between Mary Kathryn Fiebernitz and Jessica Kjellstrom assured that the Spartans would hold the lead.
In the 78th minute, Krause sliced through the box and laid it off to VanPoppelen, who fired it into the upper left-hand side of the goal, extending the lead to the game’s final score, 3-0.
Michigan State takes a short trip to Rochester, Mich. to face the Oakland Grizzlies on Tuesday September 2.
Seth Kinker is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.
Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports