South Bend, Ind. — It wasn’t the way the MSU men’s soccer team (12-10-1 overall, 3-3-0 Big Ten) pictured its season ending.
On a four-game winning streak, the unseeded Spartans came to South Bend, Ind., to upset the No. 1 team in the country.
Notre Dame was going to be the second team to fall to the wayside of MSU’s rush to the College Cup, and the victorious underdogs were going to head back to East Lansing to ready for NCAA Tournament round-three opponent Indiana.
The script was set, but the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame had much different proceedings in mind, and they are the ones leaving triumphant and ending the Spartans’ season after dominating MSU, 3-0.
“In the locker room right now, all the seniors are just heads down,” freshman midfielder Jay Chapman said, following the loss.
“My heart’s out for them, but overall, it’s a successful season.”
The two teams played at an even keel for the majority of the first half until Notre Dame turned it on for two late goals in the first half, scored by Harrison Shipp and Ryan Finley.
Shipp beat MSU freshman goaltender Zach Bennett with a low ball to the right, and Finley finished a header off the corner kick into Bennett’s net.
“You give up one with a minute and a half before halftime — I think that definitely makes it a little bit tough to bounce back from,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “One goal’s always manageable, and our guys came back to try to get our first goal. We talked about the next goal (being) huge in that second half, and if we got one … the game would change.”
The Irish entered the second half determined to maintain their lead. Notre Dame held MSU to only eight shots throughout the game, while they had 17.
Sophomore forward Adam Montague noted the physicality of Notre Dame’s backline, as the defensive players gave the Spartans very little time and space to set up any plays.
“It’s hard to play back-to-goal, especially with big guys,” Montague said. “They’re not just big guys, they’re good soccer players. They’re a smart team; they’re a good team. They knew our game plan just like we knew theirs.”
Notre Dame rounded out the game with a late goal at 79:22.
The second half brought out the aggression in both sides, with three total players being ejected. Sophomore midfielder Fatai Alashe received two yellow cards about six minutes apart, resulting in his ejection from the game at 77:36.
Just five minutes earlier, senior forward Nick Wilson and Notre Dame’s Luke Mishu exchanged aggressions and both got kicked out of the game with red cards. Following Alashe’s removal, MSU was forced to play two men down from the normal 12 and with one man fewer than the Irish.
“When it went to 10 vs. 10, when each team had a red card, we actually started to get rhythm,” Rensing said.
“We actually started to get it, so the second red card on us kind of changed it because now you’re 10 versus nine, and that’s tough. That’s tough to deal with. That certainly didn’t allow us to try to get that first goal for us to get it at 2-1.”
“I definitely learned my strengths and my weaknesses,” Chapman said. “I’m just going to try to fix my weaknesses and focus on my strengths for next year and try to make it further than this year.”