Another Slow Start Dooms Michigan State

Despite two late goals by Abby Barker and Jenni Smith, Michigan State dropped its second consecutive contest against top 10 opponents in a 4-2 heartbreaker to No. 4 Maryland Sunday afternoon.

It became the sixth consecutive contest that the Spartans failed to score the first goal. The four goals allowed tied a season-high for Michigan State, who is now 1-2 in Big Ten play and 5-4 overall.

Despite having Barker and Allie Ahern carrying the load offensively, the Spartans have had trouble scoring with stiffer competition. In the Spartans’ four losses this season, they have combined for four goals. Meanwhile, the team combined for 23 goals in the five wins.

Sunday’s contest went back and forth in the early stages of the first half until the Terrapins broke through on Maxine Fluharty’s fifth goal of the season. Michigan State goalie Sierra Patton, who came out with a diving poke check, stopped the initial play, but as the ball went back outside the striking circle, Emma Rissinger sent a cross, which was re-directed in front by Fluharty.

Michigan State is now 3-4 when giving up the first goal.

“The lack of effort is not here, the lack of skill is not here,” head coach Helen Knull said. “It’s the self-belief that we are a good team, but every single person whether they are on the field or on the bench has to be ready to put your best effort in. I’m disappointed we didn’t play a full game today.”

The opening goal was a culmination of the momentum completely swinging in Maryland’s favor as the Terrapins earned eight of the final 11 corners in the game.

“We sat back and we were passive. We weren’t pushing to get corners and we weren’t executing well, and that’s on us,” Knull said. “We have to improve there.”

The knockout blow came in the dying seconds of the first half, as Maryland earned a corner with under 15 seconds to play. The clock ran out but the corner was still taken. Off the corner, a shot was fired by Anna Dessoye, which was deflected up by Sarah Sprink on its way into the back of the net.

Initially, the goal was not allowed, but as Sprink redirected the ball, the goal was legal and the Terrapins took a 2-0 lead into the break.

“It’s a momentum shifter because you go into the half and they’ve literally just scored at the buzzer,” Knull explained. “You have to find a way to regroup into the half. It put us on our heels a little bit. Second half we let them run away from us.”

Maryland continued to control the play in the second half, and two quick goals 1:58 apart from Fluharty and Moira Putsch gave Maryland a commanding 4-0 lead. This prompted Knull to send freshman Katie Miller into the game in relief of Patton.

The Spartans’ offense would finally wake up in the final seven minutes of the game, and would get on the board thanks to Barker’s ninth goal of the season, which ties her for second most in the Big Ten. Smith would add her first goal of the season on a corner with no time left on the clock to make the final score 4-2.

The Spartans look to rebuild as they pay a visit to New Jersey next weekend when they take on Rutgers and Monmouth.

Brian Bobal is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports