Michigan State avenged their first round loss from a year ago on Sunday afternoon, as they defeated Penn State 2-1 at DeMartin Soccer Complex to advance in the Big Ten tournament.
In the 75th minute, defender Jimmy Fiscus dove down low to head in a rebounded Ryan Sierakowski shot from the top of the box and score his first goal of the season,. For Damon Rensing’s team, it was all they deserved in their final home game of the season.
“I’m really proud of our guys, this game had an NCAA tournament feel today,” Rensing said. “We kept chipping away, and did a good job sealing the win.”
MSU was pretty much always the team more likely to take the lead, as they created most of the dangerous scoring chances throughout the game. Sierakowski and midfielders Ken Krolicki and Andrew Herr all posed tough questions to the Nittany Lion defense, and it took a handful of smart saves from PSU goalkeeper Evan Finney to keep the Spartans off the board throughout the first half.
The Spartans’ first goal of the day came from a corner on the near sideline, which was initially cleared but found its way to Sierakowski. His shot right at the keeper was saved but not cleared, and after a couple deflections was arrowed in by the right foot of Big Ten Freshman of the Year Giuseppe Barone, who took no time putting his shot into the bottom left corner to give the Spartans the lead midway through the first half.
MSU looked to increase their lead with a number of chances after the Barone goal, but a Krolicki header was inches wide of the left post, a chance the Spartans would rue missing.
With four and a half minutes remaining in the first half, a Krolicki foul in the center of the field led to a free kick from 30 yards out. Penn State’s Connor Maloney dispatched the resulting free kick into the bottom left corner of Jimmy Hague’s net, making it 1-1 at the break.
The second half was much more back and forth. A couple of Herr runs down the right sideline caused problems, and a flicked Krolicki header was destined for the top left corner before Finney stretched an arm to tip over.
The Spartans had to wait until the 79th minute to score their winner, and as Sierakowski’s shot arched towards the right side of the net, Finney made an excellent save to tip it onto the post, but there was very little the PSU defense could do to keep out Fiscus, who had the entire goal to aim for but stopped down low to make sure his header could put the Spartans ahead.
MSU’s next opponent will be No. 1 seed Maryland, who took down Michigan in double overtime. Kickoff is on Friday, in Grand Park, IN. A time is to be announced.