Crusaders Hand Spartans First Loss of Season

In a physical and offensive battle that saw a combined 32 shots from both teams, Valparaiso University edged out No. 7 Michigan State, 1-0 in a close game.

From the start of the whistle, the Spartans and Crusaders battled it out for the first 18 minutes of the game until senior forward, Adam Montague, collided with Valpo goalkeeper, Nico Campbell, on a 50-50 ball inside the Crusaders’ six-yard box.

Montague was able to get a head on it, but the collision with Campbell caused him to fall to the ground, but he was able to walk back to the bench on his own after a few minutes.

The Spartans’ offensive production was out of sync without a big body up top to hold the ball and create plays for others.

“We just couldn’t get goals. Depending on what we are trying to get at, we created chances and got in,” MSU head coach Damon Rensing said. “Obviously not having Adam (Montague) is a big part of that too. He is the center of our offense and when I say center, a lot of things focus around him and when he goes out 16 minutes in, that’s a factor.”

The Spartans had several chances to score off free kicks, but were unable to convert as the Crusader defense stood tall against the physical play from Michigan State.

“We have had a pretty good stretch of games so far. First three games were pretty good technically. We were trying to play a little bit,” senior midfielder, Fatai Alashe said. “Obviously, Valpo sat back and let us play a little bit, so we were trying to deal with things in the midfield. You are bound to come across games where you are not doing that well technically, but stuff like that happens and you still need to find a way to win.”

Going into the second half, the game was tied 0-0 and 12 minutes into the half, the Crusaders found the back of the net in a scramble for the ball inside Michigan State’s 18-yard box.

“They put a low ball in from the free kick out wide and their guy kind of knocked it down and then (MSU defender Ryan) Keener slid in and tried to clear it,” MSU junior goalkeeper Zach Bennett said. “I don’t think they got it all or the guy blocked it and then the guy was sitting there open and just had a little bit of an opening and there was a guy screening me. (The ball) went through his legs and went through mine before I could really see what happened.”

For the remainder of the game, the Spartans were on the offensive, but too many poor passes created turnovers and prevented Michigan State from putting themselves into better goal scoring opportunities.

In any game you have to limit your turnovers because when you have the ball you have a big shape and you are open,” Rensing said. “And when you turn a needless ball over, it’s a lot of running to get back into defensive shape and you’re using energy you don’t want to be using.”

Michigan State’s best goal scoring opportunity came in the 69th minute off a long throw-in from sophomore midfielder, Dewey Lewis, which ended up finding Zach Carroll in front of the six-yard box, who could not finish the scoring chance.

“I just saw the throw-in come in and saw Keener put a good flick on it and I just tried to cut in front of my defender and got my head onto it,” Carroll said. “Unluckily, it was right at the goalie.”

The Spartans will play the Loyola University Chicago Ramblers on Sunday at DeMartin Stadium at 2:30 p.m.

Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports

Photo: Jonathan Yales/Impact Sports