In a hard fought match that went back and forth all night between Michigan State and Notre Dame, the Spartans came out of South Bend, Indiana with a 1-1 draw.
For the opening minutes of the match, the Spartans controlled the possession game and worked the ball around the pitch, but could not put themselves into good scoring opportunities.
“I thought we were very good in the first 20 minutes with possession,” heach coach Damon Rensing said. “We didn’t create a ton of stuff but we were good in possession and I thought that allowed us to get into the game pretty well.”
The Fighting Irish would finally get good possession of the ball and in the 10th minute, senior defender, Luke Mishu, would have the first good shot attempt of the night by striking a shot with the outside of his right foot towards the far post, which would force junior goalkeeper, Zach Bennett, to make a diving save to tip the shot out for a corner.
Notre Dame would have another good look at goal in the 13th minute, but Bennett again would deny another shot, this time tipping the ball over the goal off a shot from senior forward, Vince Cicciarelli.
The Spartans would have their opportunities though, the first good opportunity coming in the 24th minute off a free kick from 25 yards out. Junior midfielder, Jason Stacy, would strike a shot that would force graduate student goalkeeper, Patrick Wall, to tip the shot out of bounds on a diving save.
The Fighting Irish would have another good scoring chance 10 minutes later off a corner kick from junior midfielder, Patrick Hodan, where the ball would bounce around in the box and would eventually force Bennett to come off his line and block a shot at the top of the six-yard-box.
Notre Dame would continue their offensive pressure in the second half as three minutes in, junior midfielder, Evan Panken, would head a ball off a long throw from Mishu that would force Bennett to make another save that would give the Fighting Irish another corner.
Panken would have another opportunity eight minutes later and this time he would make it count, as he would finish inside the six-yard-box off a rebound from his own shot to give Notre Dame the 1-0 lead.
“The guy crossed it in and (Ryan) Keener blocked the cross and it went right back to the guy, and then he crossed it in again and (Panken) was sitting about two or three yards off the goal line and tried to hit it in near post,” Bennett said. “It hit my arm, hit my chest and I am falling backwards after I make the save and the rebound goes right back to him and he blasts it basically right over me and I just couldn’t get up in time.”
Having come off the bench in the first half, redshirt senior, Tim Kreutz, would come off the bench in the 73rd minute and ignite a huge spark for the Spartans.
Off a corner in the 80th minute Michigan State would finally have their equalizer, as Kreutz would find a loose ball in the box off a Stacy corner kick and put it in the back of the net to tie the game up at 1-1.
“Over the years we have been starting to call it a ‘Tim Kreutz’ goal because I score so many of those goals in the six-yard-box where it’s banging around a little bit, they kind of lose track where I am and I am always in the right spot at the right time,” Kreutz said. “The ball fell down a couple yards away from me and I just went in as hard as I could. Was expecting a tackle, but no one really made it there so just hit it as hard as I could at the goalie and luckily hit the back of the net.”
For the final ten minutes, the Fighting Irish put the pressure on the Spartan defense, but Michigan State would hold strong and come up with a few blocked shots to keep the game tied and give them a chance to win the game in overtime.
The Spartans would have scoring chances in the first overtime, but the best would come in the 97th minute from senior forward, Adam Montague, who dribbled past the Fighting Irish defense into the Notre Dame box which forced Wall to come off his line and make a one-on-one save to keep the game tied.
Michigan State would control the game in the second overtime as well, but none of their shots would challenge Wall and the game would end in a 1-1 draw.
“It was a great college soccer game, but we are disappointed because we were the better team in overtime and we were kind of disappointed to come away with a tie,” Rensing said. “Anytime you go on the road, you never want to lose games. We played really well tonight. I think this was our best team performance of the year and we are really unlucky to not walk away with a win here, especially in the latter part of the game and in overtime. It’s kind of bitter sweet.”
The Spartans return home to DeMartin Stadium on Sunday for Senior Day and the Mitten Derby against the Michigan Wolverines (5-7-3 overall).
“To finally get a result, even if it’s a tie on the road, it means a lot to these guys, especially to our seniors,” Kreutz said. “They knocked us out of the tournament the last two years. To get a result and if you look at the board, you see that we outshot them and this is something good for our team going forward.”
Brooks Laimbeer is the host of Corner Kick for Impact Sports
Photo: Hannah McEnroe/Impact Sports