FINAL: Spartans win regular season home finale over Wisconsin, 4-1


MSU defender Olu Ogunwale celebrates after MSU defeats Northwestern 2-0/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Luca Melloni, Men's Soccer Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — The Michigan State men’s soccer team got back to their winning ways after a thrilling 4-1 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers in their last home game of the season on Wednesday. This was the first time since the 2018 season that the Spartans scored 4 goals in a game.

The Spartans bid farewell to senior goalkeeper Isiah Handspike as today marked his last home game at Demartin Stadium for MSU. Handspike, a regular backup keeper, subbed on for Hunter Morse for the last two minutes of the game to cap his tenure in East Lansing.

Spartan junior midfielder Louis Sala praised his teammate’s presence  by saying, “He (Handspike) shows up to training every day with a smile and he puts in work every session.” 

There’s no doubt an impactful player like Handspike will be missed in the locker room. 

Coming into this game, the Badgers were previously 1-6-1 in the Big Ten and entered the contest off a slender 1-0 loss to Penn State.

The Spartans entered off a devastating 2-1 defeat in overtime to No. 14 Michigan. This time, coach Damon Rensing started the game with junior Conner George and freshman Greyson Mercer as the forwards to get goals early on. 

The intensity was high from the Spartans in the opening minutes. They were pressing the Badgers into forcing defensive mistakes in their own half.

MSU junior midfielder Olu Ogunwale opened the scoring account eight minutes into the game after he won the ball back at the top left side of the Badgers 18-yard box, cut in with his right foot, and struck the ball into the top right corner. 

Rensing said, “Olu set the tone early, not just with the goal, but with his pressing and his quick feet.”

At the 17 minute mark, the Badgers drew a foul near the half-line and were rewarded with a free-kick. Forward Henri Tophoven sent in a dangerous ball into the Spartan box and Badger forward Andrew Akindele put a bullet of a header past Morse to tie the game 1-1. 

The Spartans were left stunned by the impressive effort to equalize.

“We had a little brain fart causing a foul and restarting the play by letting Wisconsin score a nice goal,” said Rensing. “But we responded and that’s what we wanted to see.”

The Spartans did respond, to the tune of three unanswered goals. 

The Spartans were rewarded a corner kick at the 26th minute of the first half. It was sent in by junior Jack Beck and after a couple of misfired shots and deflections off defenders, the ball landed right before freshman Jack Zugay inside the 6-yard box who did not think twice before striking it into the back of the net and make it a 2-1 game.

Suddenly, the Spartans were right back in the lead with no signs of slowing down.

The passing between sophomore defender Nick Stone and the rest of the team was very comfortable and MSU held the Badgers to just three shots on target for the rest of the afternoon. A confident defensive display. 

At the 40th minute, MSU defender Luke Morrell drew a foul inside the Badger box which resulted in a penalty kick. Defender Will Perkins stepped up to take the penalty and confidently netted it, putting the Spartans up 3-1 before halftime. 

MSU defender Will Perkins attempts a throw-in/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Coming out of the second half, the Spartans began utilizing their bench with players such as junior midfielder Alex Shterenberg and freshman forward Vedad Kovac. 

Kovac and Shterenberg had three shots on target combined in the time they played but were unable to get it past Badger goalkeeper Carter Abbott. 

“Our guys were rewarded today and everyone who got a chance played really well,” said Rensing. 

Mercer nearly bagged his first goal of the season after an ambitious long pass from freshman midfielder Jacob Cromer but Mercer’s shot slammed the crossbar. 

As both teams were winding down into the last 10 minutes of the game, Badger defender Zack Klancnik fouled Sala near the top of the box and conceded a free-kick.

Sala stepped up to take the free-kick at the 84th minute and whipped a ball with his right foot into the top-left corner to seal the victory for the Spartans with a fourth goal. 

“I was alone taking free-kicks at the practice field this week and it felt really good to get one in front of the home crowd,” said Sala. “We really needed to defend DeMartin Stadium and end the season here strong…it was good to send our senior Isiah (Handspike) out with a thumping win.”

The Spartans will prepare for their final game of the season and aim to win this time against the Ohio State Buckeyes in Columbus on Sunday, April 4 at 2:00 p.m.