MSU held to draw by Northwestern on Senior Night

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EAST LANSING, Mich. — Northwestern played the role of the spoiler as they held Michigan State to a goalless draw Friday at DeMartin Stadium on Senior Night. A night where chances were plentiful, but goals weren’t found typified the lackluster slump the Spartans are going through.

A cold and rainy sky ushered in the Wildcats (4-7-5, 0-4-3 B1G) to take on a Spartan team (10-2-3, 4-1-1 B1G) who has not been as strong recently as they were at the beginning of the season. MSU’s only two losses came in their previous four games, a stretch which also included a narrow, last-minute victory against an Ohio State team who has just one win on their season.

Senior Night meant ten Spartan seniors were honored before the game with a ceremony. Seven regular starters are a part of the class that will not be returning to Damon Rensing’s team next year.

“I don’t really want to think about what it’s going to be like without them. We’ve got a lot of season left to play,” said Rensing. “They’ve been a great group. Obviously they’ve accomplished a lot of great things so, you know, very proud of them.” The seniors were also on the team that made it to the Elite Eight last year.

The Spartans came out of the gate with energy, creating a slew of chances, but were unable to capitalize on any of them. Early free kicks and crosses played in by Giuseppe Barone and John Freitag posed danger, but were all cleared away by the back line of Northwestern.

Hunter Barone, who had started every game for the Spartans this season, was sidelined for the night because of suspension, meaning his normal replacement Farai Mutatu got the start instead. He made the most of it, registering multiple crosses and three shots in the first half, although they didn’t amount to anything.

Spartan keeper Jimmy Hague had just about nothing to do in the first half; he only needed to make one save. Michigan State finished the first half with ten shots, but just one was on target.

Senior DeJuan Jones looked dangerous all game. He began the first half by supplying three crosses, all of which were handled by the Wildcat back four. The Spartans’ first quality chance came 12 minutes into the second half, when defender Michael Pimlott knocked a corner kick down to Sierakowski, whose hard shot forced a great save from Northwestern keeper Miha Miskovic.

Soon after that chance, Freitag — the full-back who seemed to be everywhere at once on Friday– got in behind the Northwestern back line, but a heavy touch took the ball into the arms of Miskovic. A flurry of crosses from the left and right of the Spartan flanks followed, but came to a conclusion as a Giuseppe Barone cross zipped just past the head of Freitag and resulted in a goal kick.

Northwestern would host their longest spell of possession the next couple minutes. An errant pass from MSU’s Patrick Nielsen led to an opportunity for Wildcat striker Matt Moderwell to have a wide-open strike, but it was handled easily by Hague.

Much like the first half, MSU dominated play and creation of chances, but still didn’t have the goal to show for it. Northwestern’s only second half chance came on the rogue shot from Moderwell. Neither team could muster up enough quality to score and the game headed to an extra period.

The only action of the first half of extra time came when MSU’s Jack Beck put his laces through the ball at the top of the box and forced an excellent save out of Miskovic. Less than a minute later, Sierakowski was in on goal, but once again the Wildcat keeper came up huge.

The Spartans kept the pressure up during the second half of extra time, forcing more saves out of Miskovic. Senior Cody Sweatte sent a curling effort toward the right corner and Jones got a slight touch on it on the way through to change its path. Miskovic dove to his left and somehow kept the ball out the back of the net and potentially stamped his name on Big Ten play of the week.

Northwestern stifled the Spartans’ attempts to break the deadlock for the remainder of extra time and a point was earned for each team.

“It was a decent effort by us. We had a lot of the ball, we got some good crosses, some good chances, the goalie made some good saves and the ball just didn’t bounce our way a couple times,” Jones said of the Spartans’ performance.

Although they began the season with five wins and a tie at home, MSU has not won a game at DeMartin since September 21. Their last home game is next Tuesday when they take on No. 18 Michigan for the Big Bear Trophy.