MSU closes regular season with win at Ohio State

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MSU midfielder Jack Beck kicks the ball in the Spartans’ 3-0 win vs/ Northwestern/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Ian Gilmour, Men's Soccer Beat Reporter

Momentum is a powerful thing.

On March 3, the last time MSU played Ohio State, it played horribly in a 2-0 shutout and fell to 1-3 on the season. Simply put, there wasn’t much of anything going right with the team a month ago.

On Sunday, the Spartans went into Columbus after coming off an impressive 4-1 victory over Wisconsin on Wednesday and held the Buckeyes scoreless en route to a narrow 1-0 win.

Spartan midfielder Jack Beck scored the lone goal in the 73rd-minute. With the road win on the final day of the regular season, MSU improved to 4-6, good for sixth place in the conference.

“This is the type of game [we] needed to win if [we] want to be successful as a program,” head coach Damon Rensing said.

MSU began the game on its front foot, with two high-quality scoring chances coming early on.

First, forward Greyson Mercer ran into the box with a chance to strike with his left foot but was hesitant and lost possession. Just minutes later, sophomore forward Conner George ripped a cross across the box, but it was just out of reach of Will Perkins’ outstretched leg at the back post.

MSU forward Connor George celebrates after scoring a goal/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The game turned into quite a defensive affair for the rest of the first half, with much of the game being played between the boxes.

“I don’t really think we gave up anything dangerous. Credit to our back line and the midfield guys in front of them; I thought for the most part we worked really good as a team,” Rensing said.

MSU’s best chance to open the scoring came in the 33rd minute. A cross very similar to George’s earlier fell to the feet of forward Farai Mutatu, but Buckeye keeper Noah Lawrence made a fantastic save to keep the game deadlocked. As a result, MSU went into the half deadlocked with OSU at zero.

For all of their high-percentage scoring chances in the first half, the Spartans struggled to generate those same opportunities in the early parts of the second. Nothing was really working for the Spartans until midway through the half when Perkins made a darting run in behind the OSU back line and had a sight of the goal; however, the ball got caught up under his feet.

Calamity almost ensued for the Spartan defense just minutes later. Goalkeeper Hunter Morse looked to roll a ball out to his right fullback, but just as soon as it was out of his hand, it was stolen by the Buckeyes, but the player it fell to was called offsides before he would have almost certainly tucked it away.

MSU goaltender Hunter Morse prepares to make a save/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

The breakthrough that MSU had been searching for came on almost the next trip up the pitch. Perkins cut the ball back to Jack Beck about 35 yards from goal. Beck had no one within 10 yards of him in the middle of the park, so he wound up and took a whack on goal that paid off. Lawrence seemed to be caught off guard and could do nothing but flail at the shot as it whizzed by him and into the back of the net.

“Jack hits a really good ball,” Rensing said. “I thought he might have taken another touch but I’m glad he didn’t…Will [Perkins] made a really good outside-of-the-right foot pass that broke the pressure. Jack took a good touch and smashed it.”

MSU efficiently held off OSU for the last 15 minutes and picked up a monumental three points on the final day of the Big Ten season.

“When it comes to tournament play, if you can get a shutout or limit chances, you can not play great and win a game 1-0,” Rensing said.

The Spartans’ win today sets them up with a Big Ten Tournament quarterfinal matchup that will feature their third game with Michigan this season and a rematch of last year’s quarterfinals matchup in Ann Arbor. Michigan won both contests against MSU this season by one goal each.