Spartans and Wildcats Draw in Defensive Battle

In a hard-fought match between both sides, Michigan State and Northwestern could only notch one goal apiece in 110 minutes of play.

The Wildcats came out with high pressure against the Spartans, but Michigan State would set themselves up first for scoring opportunities as they earned a corner kick in the second minute and redshirt senior forward, Tim Kreutz, whipped in a cross in the eighth minute that was grabbed by senior goalkeeper, Tyler Miller.

Northwestern would have an opportunity in the 13th minute off a corner kick as a ball from sophomore midfielder, Brandon Medina, found the head of sophomore defender, Nathan Dearth, who headed the ball into the side of the goal for a goal kick.

“I think we put ourselves in good spots,” redshirt senior, Ryan Keener, said. “We really didn’t give up too much defensively, but Northwestern is solid defensively and they will make you earn it.”

The Spartans would have more set piece opportunities, but their best chance in the first half came in the 23rd minute off a laser shot from 30 yards out from senior midfielder, Fatai Alashe, which was heading towards the upper left corner, but Miller made a diving save in the air to prevent the goal.

The Wildcats would get a few more corners, but the Spartans held strong as the teams came out of the first half tied at 0-0.

The Spartans would set the tempo early in the second half off a corner kick in the 49th minute, as a ball from junior midfielder, Jason Stacy, would find Keener’s head and head it towards the far post where junior defender, Mick Maley, would clear the header off the line to prevent a Michigan State goal.

Michigan State would bring the pressure again and this time they would capitalize as redshirt sophomore, Andrew Herr, would weave his way through the Wildcat defense and into the box where he would earn a penalty kick after being fouled.

“I was kind of lucky the way it worked out,” Herr said. “I played a ball into Dewey [Lewis], he played it back to me, took a big touch past the kid. He tried to slide in and didn’t get it. Touched past him and touched it past the next defender and then a guy who wasn’t even defending me came out of the back and just pushed me from behind. Go down. PK.”

Junior defender, Zach Carroll, would step up to take the penalty kick and he would bury it into the upper left side of the goal in the 61st minute to give the Spartans a 1-0 lead.

“Fatai is usually our top guy and he took the knock a couple minutes before that and when I saw he couldn’t take it, I knew I had it,” Carroll said. “I am confident with PK’s and I just stepped up there and hit a good one.”

Northwestern would come back with pressure and five minutes later, junior midfielder, Cole Missimo, would get into the MSU box and take a shot that deflected off Keener and sophomore forward, Mike Roberge, would follow up on the rebound and put it into the back of the net.

“It was one of those where he was coming across and shifting here,” Keener said. “Personally I believe that I could have stepped harder. I slipped, ended up getting the block and once that happens it’s up to chance there. Unfortunate bounce maybe, but the kid took it well. Good job to them.”

Both teams would have chances from set pieces to try and take the lead, but the Spartans would have the best opportunity to score in the final minutes of the second half as junior midfielder, Jay Chapman, and senior forward, Adam Montague, would have their shots around the box blocked.

In the first 10 minutes overtime, Northwestern would set the tempo and they would have a good look to win the game in the 97th minute as junior forward, Joey Calistri, would have a one-on-one opportunity with junior goalkeeper, Zach Bennett, inside the box, but Bennett would save Calistri’s hard-hit shot right off his face to keep the game tied at 1-1.

“It was a great save and shows the commitment of the kid,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “He read it and he came off his line early, quick and decisive. That’s part of the goalkeeping position. It’s probably not glamorous, but he was ready to do it. I thought it was a great save.”

Neither team would get a great scoring look the rest of the first overtime or second overtime, and after 110 minutes, the two teams came away with a point in a 1-1 tie.

“To tie today felt like a loss for us,” Carroll said. “I felt like we outplayed them the whole game, except for maybe a couple minutes here and there but just get back to it against Notre Dame and hopefully get the shutouts going again.”

Michigan State will travel to South Bend, Indiana on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to play a Fighting Irish team that has been at the top of the NSCAA Coaches Poll all season.

“I think it will be a good college soccer game,” Rensing said. “I think you will see ebbs and flows, like you will between two good teams. Notre Dame’s good at possession and [Patrick] Hodan is really starting to get going, but I think if you look at how we have played against Notre Dame, the results might not have been quite there, but we have probably played them as well as most teams have. So we will be ready to go for sure.”

Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports

Photo: Hannah McEnroe/Impact Sports