Ahern Nets Overtime Winner, Gives Spartans First Win

Senior Allie Ahern was the hero Sunday afternoon at Ralph Young Field in East Lansing.

In a back and forth, offense dominated game, Ahern netted the game-winning goal in overtime to give the Spartans a 5-4 victory over the University of Maine Black Bears, for the No. 16 Spartans’ first win of the regular season.

“(It felt) good,” Ahern said after scoring the overtime winner. “The last game we played against (No. 4) Duke, we let them score at the last second of the first overtime. Today, we put it home early and we’re happy about that.”

The Spartans controlled play early in the first half. About five minutes into the game, sophomore forward Megan Fenton opened the scoring after a cross from senior Abby Barker. Redshirt junior Claire Johnson gave the Spartans a 2-0 lead only a couple of minutes later after scoring off of a penalty corner.

The Black Bears started to see some chances of their own as the first half progressed. At the midway mark of the first half, Maine forward Cassidy Svetek cut the lead to 2-1.

An outstanding individual effort by Barker gave the Spartans a two-goal lead once again only a couple of minutes after Maine’s goal. Barker received the ball at midfield, carried the ball the length of the field, beat a defender around the outside, cut to the net and flicked the ball past the Maine goalkeeper.

That three-goal lead was short-lived for the Spartans as Maine’s Holly Stewart, Danielle Avian, and Nicole Sevey all scored before the half to make it 4-3 in favor of the Black Bears.

The Spartans started the second half down a goal, but Fenton changed that about six minutes in as she redirected a shot into the back of the net for her second goal of the game.

Late in the second half, Maine survived a flurry of corners and chances that included a shot from senior back Jenni Smith which nearly won the game for the Spartans. Smith’s shot beat all of the Maine defenders, but rang off of the post and went wide, keeping the score tied at 4-4.

Spartan back, Alli Helwig, gave the Spartans a chance to play for the win in overtime when she made a game-saving block on the goal line in the dying seconds of regulation. The block allowed Ahern to score the game-winner for the Spartans in overtime off of a corner a few minutes later.

The Spartans shot early and often, tallying 28 shots for the entire game, but MSU head coach Helen Knull said her team never got frustrated.

“I told the girls, you’ve got to believe in the process and that the ball is going to fall in eventually. I told them in the post game, 28 shots on goal that’s probably, I mean from last year, that might be a high for us,” Knull said. “Maine’s goalkeeper had an outstanding game. We challenged her. So rather than getting frustrated, we talk about just turning it into a positive. We’re getting the shots, we’re right there, we just have to get the rebounds.”

The players were relieved to finally get a win under their belt, including the hero of the day.

“It definitely feels good to win,” Ahern said following the game. “It’s a relief. We could have easily beaten Duke (on Friday). We didn’t play our best game and we talked about that, but we’ve moved on from that and it’s definitely important to get one win.”

“We’re still early in the season, and we were tested today. It is our game that we have to clean up, and we’re gonna have to come back to practice next week. I’ve already told the girls to put their work shoes on to play hard for Tuesday’s practice,” Knull added.

The Spartans are now 1-1 on the season and they will travel to Washington D.C. next weekend to take on St. Joseph’s. The game is set for Sept. 6 at 1 p.m.

Max Benoit is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports