Spartans defeat American 3-2, face Louisville on Sunday

Coming off a pair of home losses last weekend, the MSU field hockey team went into Friday night’s tilt with American looking to bounce back. While they won 3-2, head coach Helen Knull said she thought the team could have done better.

“When we played simple hockey and kept the ball moving and made the first pass we saw, we looked great,” Knull said. “But they were down 3-0 and they came back to make it a 3-2 game. Defensively we’re still giving up too many corners and we can only rely so much on our defensive corner unit.”

Penalty corners have been a problem for the Spartans thus far, and they gave up another 13 of them to American, most of those coming in the second half as American clawed their way back into the game.

Sophomore midfielder Heather Howie led the Spartans with a pair of goals and Abby Barker scored the third. Sophomore fullback Jenni Smith added two assists and sophomore midfielder Alli Helwig had one assist.

Junior midfielder Kristen Henn said she thought the first half was solid, a switch from the previous weekend, when Northeastern and Virginia came out strong while MSU struggled to keep up.

“We were being proactive instead of reactive (today),” Henn said. “Last week we were waiting for them to set the tempo, but we set the tempo today. I think we came out strong today.”

Howie agreed with Henn and added that the team did a better job of playing their own brand of Spartan hockey.

“We had a good first half,” Howie said. “We played our own game. We let it drop a little bit in the second half, but I though we all fought to the end. It was a really good team effort.”

Because Louisville beat Central Michigan 3-2 in double-overtime in the first game of the Auto-Owners Insurance MSU Invitational, MSU will play the Cardinals on Sunday in the title game. The Chippewas will take on American in the consolation match at 11 a.m. on Sunday before the Spartans and Cardinals take the field at 1 p.m.

The logistics of the weekend don’t allow for quite the same preparation opportunities MSU has enjoyed in previous weekends. But Knull said she isn’t too worried. She said the team will do some light practicing and watch film on Louisville to prepare for Sunday.

“When you know who you’re playing (ahead of time), it’s a little bit easier because you can focus on one team, whereas we had to be ready for Central and Louisville,” Knull said. “But we have to be able to make the tactical and technical adjustments and be ready for Sunday.”

Henn said that while the Spartans want to make sure they tighten up their defense on Sunday, the bigger issue is their attitude.

“I think we need to work on being aggressive the whole (game),” Henn said. “We had that lapse at the end (against American), so we need to be on our game for a full 70 minutes.”

MSU and Louisville will face off for the Auto-Owners Insurance MSU Invitational Championship on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Ralph Young Field.

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