LIVONIA, Mich. – The Michigan State women’s soccer team suffered its first defeat of the season at the hands of Minnesota in a hard-fought game that ended 1-0. Despite the lone goal conceded, the Spartans played a great defensive game against a Minnesota team that was on the hunt for its first win of the year.
The Spartans opened the game timidly. It was not until the last 15 minutes of the first half that MSU was able to get a shot on target.
“In the first half-hour, Minnesota put us in a defensive mindset and we had to transition out of that,” said MSU head coach Tom Saxton. “We defended so much that we often left positions open in the attack.”
The Golden Gophers played with a high pressing system that allowed their defenders to push their line up to t the half. This caused the Spartans to react quickly because there would often be one to three Minnesota players pressuring a Spartan on the ball.
MSU goalkeeper Lauren Kozal recorded six saves and her performance on the ball was impressive.
“She (Kozal) kept us in the game and made big saves in both halves,” Saxton said.
What was more outstanding was Kozal’s reliability on the ball. Frequently, Spartan defenders would pass the ball back to Kozal and she would take a couple of touches and complete a long-range pass to an open teammate.
The sign of an intelligent and trusted goalkeeper.
With four minutes left in the first half, Minnesota’s Sophia Boman danced past two Spartans on the right-wing and crossed the ball into the middle where forward Sadie Harper tapped it into an open net.
Minnesota’s ability to continuously create chances and not let the Spartans get a clear chance on goal led the Gophers to dominate the first half.
The script was flipped in the 2nd half.
The Spartans came out of the break hungry for goals. For the majority of the half, the Spartans were on target with four shots on net but could not get it past Minnesota goalkeeper Megan Plaschko.
“We had a big commitment to attack in the second half but we came up short,” Saxton said.
Junior defender Samantha White had one of her best performances despite giving up a goal. White had a goal-line clearance midway through the 2nd half which denied Minnesota from doubling the lead.
“She (White) has been outstanding so far and we have been asking a lot out of her,” Saxton said. “Bria (Schrotenboer) and Sam are just warriors.”
In the end, the Spartans came up short on the attacking side of the game, unable to net a goal and come back against the Gophers.
The Spartans are now 1-1-1 this season and Saxton will be asking a lot more out of his attacking players going into the next stretch of games.
The Spartans will begin a five-game road trip that will begin in Piscataway with Rutgers on March 4 at 1 p.m.