In a back and forth match that saw Akron University with much of the possession, the Spartans found a way to put one in the back of the net and kept the Zips from scoring.
From the first whistle, Akron came out and set the tempo of the game and looked for that early goal as they had multiple chances within the first 10 minutes of the game to score.
“They are a talented team,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “They’re very good in possession. We had a couple good chances too obviously…I thought we could have broke their pressure a little bit better. We were a little anxious when we broke and that opened up the game a little.”
The Michigan State defense held strong and created several chances of their own in the first 30 minutes of the game. The best chance coming in the 11th minute off a free kick from sophomore midfielder, Dewey Lewis, that was 25 yards out.
Lewis’ ball found junior midfielder, Jay Chapman around the six-yard-box and Chapman got a touch on it with his foot, but it went right into the hands of junior goalkeeper, Jake Fenlason.
The Spartans would have another scoring chance in the 32nd minute and this time junior midfielder, Jason Stacy, finished the opportunity when Chapman played a pass to senior forward, Adam Montague, who played a through ball to Stacy who finished between the goalkeeper’s legs inside the box.
“There’s not many options that you have when the goalie is three feet in front of you,” Stacy said. “It’s either you hit it hard and low through his legs or you try and pop it over him. I tried popping it over the keeper this season and that didn’t ended up working so well. I figured I would go hard and low through his legs and I was fortunate that it ended up in the back of the net.”
For the remaining 58 minutes, Michigan State would be on their toes trying to prevent the Zips from tying the game up and Akron had several scoring opportunities, but none better than in the 56th minute off a poor ball from redshirt sophomore, Andrew Herr.
Herr tried to send the ball back into the box after the Zips cleared the Spartan corner kick, but his ball hit an Akron player and freshman midfielder, Richie Laryea, found himself on a breakaway.
As Laryea got into Spartan territory, junior goalkeeper, Zach Bennett, came off his line and cut down the angle, which forced a shot to Bennett’s left side, which he saved and the ball went out for a corner kick.
“He started coming and I didn’t see any help for him, so I knew it was pretty much a one-on-one,” Bennett said. “I kind of baited him in and I showed a little bit more to my left side, hoping he would go that way and he opened his hips and once I saw he was going that way I got down and just tried to get any body part behind it, and luckily my knee did the job and saved it.”
That would be the most dangerous shot Bennett would face all game and the rest of Akron’s pressure was taken care of by the Michigan State defenders.
After 90 minutes the whistle sounded and the Spartans recorded the win, but Bennett also recorded his 24th shutout of his career, which makes him the all-time leader in Michigan State men’s soccer history.
“This is what I came to Michigan State to potentially do,” Bennett said. “Every defender that has played in front of me has been, in my mind, a Big Ten caliber type of defender. They have made my job pretty easy and when they need me I try to do my best, and I think we have had a pretty good relationship with that for the past three years.”
A lot of Bennett’s success is due to the history of the program and the marks that other players have set in the past.
“I was just telling Zach that when he came up for our prospect ID camp, I thought he had a chance to be a good college goalkeeper, but I don’t think you ever plan this,” Rensing said. “Congratulations to Avery Steinlage and John Spink, those guys held the record and a ton of great goalkeeping history here. I think when you have those records it forces people to play better.”
Michigan State will play the University of Wisconsin on Oct. 11 at DeMartin Stadium at 2 p.m. The Badgers are 2-7-1 overall and haven’t won a game on the road this season, and have yet to win a conference game.
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports
Photo: Hannah McEnroe/Impact Sports