EAST LANSING, Michigan – If you were going to concoct a blueprint for a well-played game of field hockey by both teams, then Michigan State’s victory over Miami would serve as an exceptional example. The theme of the game was sustained offensive success and strong defensive scheming for both teams at various key junctures in the contest.
MSU got the better of Miami from the mid first quarter to the middle of the second quarter as well as the latter part of the fourth, but the opening part of the game, the waning moments of the first half and the opening part of the fourth belonged to Miami.
At the end of the day, it was the host team who did just enough to outlast the Redhawks in a drama-filled game. Miami came into this contest having already knocked off two ranked teams, Albany and Delaware. Michigan State was determined to not join this dubious distinction. This sentiment was echoed by head coach Helen Knull.
“I think the one thing with this team this year is that I never doubt we are going to win the game,” Knull said. “They keep grinding and some days it’s not pretty, but as a coach that’s a good feeling to have, that we are going to come back and win.”
Following a similar script, the first quarter resulted in quality scoring chances for both teams. Miami controlled the pace of play early, but the tide would turn in favor of MSU as the quarter wore on.
Despite several corner opportunities for both teams, neither one could break through and draw first blood. Freshman goalie Isabella Perese was especially impressive in the first quarter for Miami, with a strong left-pad save on a hard Nienke Bloemsaat wrister.
After a strong finish to the first period, MSU had sustained successful offensive shifts in Miami territory. Lia Sinisi, who played the role of hero a week ago against UC Davis with a double overtime game-winning score, punched a hard slapshot past the outstretched blocker of Perese.
The rest of the period was thoroughly controlled by Miami. After not capitalizing on several corner insert opportunities, Lexi Silver finally broke through the brick wall that was Arundell and registered a much-needed morale boost for the Redhawks as the game reached the halfway point.
Miami had several favorable scoring chances in the early part of the third, but when they needed to, they were unable to weave through the Spartan defense and take a 2-1 lead.
Being able to hold serve and ride out the changing momentum shifts throughout the game is a quality that MSU has developed quite well over the course of the early season. After weathering the storm that was the Miami offense early in the third, MSU issued a counterpunch and belted Perese with several shots of their own. All in all, it was a very back and forth affair through three
In a game the Spartans really wanted to win to avenge that Louisville loss last Sunday, the fourth quarter would decide whether redemption would be in the cards.
Miami would dominate the early part of the fourth period, as MSU wasn’t unable to sustain any offensive momentum. Gabby Luxardo for Miami had her shot deflect off the post, but a subsequent rush would prove to break the stalemate, as Luxardo smashed a shot by Arundell.
The Redhawks would hold the lead for all of two minutes before Aisha Osinga scored on a deflected shot. After this scoring outburst by both teams, the goalies would have sparkling saves that forced overtime.
Osinga, who has had a strong start to the season, alluded to how she was able to take advantage of Pereses aggressive playing style.
“She came out very far, so I just saw the space behind her on her left stick side and knew I was going to put it in,” Osinga said.
MSU came quite close on several occasions to ending the game, but like the UC Davis game a week ago, more time would be required. The second period also didn’t yield a winner. MSU was headed to their first shootout of the year.
Both teams scored three goals in the shootout. It was Osinga who once again wore the crown in the sudden-death shootout after lifting a shot over the head of Perese. Arundell would make a phenomenal stick poke check save to end the game in dramatic fashion.
When asked about her standout performance in overtime, Arundell simply stated that she and her teammates refused to lose.
“I wasn’t losing. Not when we were winning. I hate losing in the first place, but there is nothing worse than losing on your home turf,” Arundell said.
The Green and White have a quick turnaround, as they prepare to square off against No. 3-ranked University of Connecticut this Sunday at 11 a.m.
UConn boasts a perfect record (4-0) and will prove to be quite the challenge for a young Spartan team who feature one starting senior. A win over UConn would be a “signature win” according to Coach Knull.
“Any year you are looking for those signature wins against a top ten team,” Knull said. “Sometimes you learn a lot more in losing than you do winning and I think last week we learned a lot about ourselves. We’ve got to apply that now on Sunday.”
Time will tell if the lessons learned from this hotly-contested game will translate into a huge program-defining victory over UConn on Sunday. As long as they refuse to lose, they have a shot.