With the fall semester coming to a close, the State News sports desk gathered around its very small round table to discuss the season’s top performers and come up with the best of the best of the best in MSU sports in the fall. Arguments were made, deriding laughter was heard, tears were shed, but we finally compiled the official State News Best in Fall Sports 2012.
Coach of the fall: Cathy George
To say MSU volleyball head coach Cathy George moved the program a couple steps forward just would be an understatement. While coaching in the toughest volleyball conference in the nation, she achieved her 500th career win and defeated three top-10 teams, including an NCAA Tournament victory against defending national champion No. 7 UCLA to advance to the Spartans’ first Sweet Sixteen since 2007.
Volleyball’s Cathy George
Jesse O’Brien, Matt Sheehan, Alyssa Girardi, Zach Smith
Men’s soccer’s Damon Rensing
Men’s basketball’s Tom Izzo
Women’s basketball’s Suzy Merchant
Male athlete of the fall: Le’Veon Bell
Junior running back Le’Veon Bell had a season for the ages, leading the Big Ten in rushing during the regular season and finishing with the second-highest single-season rushing total in program history with 1,648 rushing yards.
Football junior running back Le’Veon Bell
Jesse O’Brien, Dillon Davis, Alyssa Girardi, Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith, Beau Hayhoe, Josh Mansour
Female athlete of the fall: Annie Steinlage
Junior defender Annie Steinlage was the glue that held the MSU women’s soccer team together. She anchored a defense that was fourth in the Big Ten in goals allowed (24) and sixth in goals against average (1.21). Steinlage started all 19 games the Spartans played, was second on the team with five assists and 11 points and tied for third on the team with three goals, two of them being of the game-winning variety.
Women’s soccer junior defender Annie Steinlage
Jesse O’Brien, Zach Smith, Alyssa Girardi, Beau Hayhoe
Cross country junior Sara Kroll
Volleyball junior outside hitter Lauren Wicinski
Volleyball sophomore libero Kori Moster
Quote of the fall: “Next question.”
Nothing characterizes the Spartans’ disappointing season better than Mark Dantonio’s abbreviated press conference, punctuated by his now infamous response: “Next question.”
“Next question.” — Mark Dantonio, in his postgame press conference after win against Eastern Michigan
Jesse O’Brien, Dillon Davis, Alyssa Girardi, Beau Hayhoe
“The greatest room in the world is the room for improvement.” — Bennie Fowler, on receiving corps’ early struggles
“All of our goals … still might be in front of us.” — Bennie Fowler, following 12-10 loss at Michigan
“I’m gonna go with peanut butter and jelly. (Payne’s) peanut butter ‘cause he’s brown like peanut butter and he’s skinny, and I’m more big and dark.“ — Derrick Nix, on nicknames for him and Adreian Payne
“(Junior forward) Annalise (Pickrel) is more about finesse. I’m a little bit more of a go out and hit somebody type of deal.” — Courtney Schiffauer, comparing herself with Pickrel
Tweet(s) of the fall: Bryce Dobbins and Derrick Nix
Although he’s since deleted his account, Derrick Nix’s “R.I.P. ta da competition” tweets after each MSU win had become a staple in the postgame timelines of his followers, while Dobbins’ ponderings about the bowel movements of an MSU legend exhibit the quirkiness of his own account.
Bryce Dobbins (@BDobbins29): Sitting on the toilet in Jenison Field House wondering if just maybe (Magic Johnson) used the same seat back in the day #vintagedump
Alyssa Girardi, Dillon Davis, Beau Hayhoe
Le’Veon Bell (@L_Bell24): I expected all the hate, but idc … we legitimately lost ONE game this year … and that was Notre Dame! The black & white team beat us 4 times — after pass interference call cost MSU a win against Nebraska
Bryce Dobbins (@BDobbins29): The dexterity, balance, and perseverance of peeing on a bus is comparable to playing a D1 sport especially under tunnels #aimbyfaithnotsight
Nick Hill (@N_Hill2032): Even a blind squirrel can get a nut ever(y) once in a while … — on Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson’s 71-yard completion against Alabama
Derrick Nix (@DerrickNix25): R.I.P ta da competition.
Jesse O’Brien, Matt Sheehan, Josh Mansour
Game of the fall: Men’s soccer wins Big Ten Tournament
When the MSU men’s soccer team traveled to Northwestern for the Big Ten Tournament, the players and staff knew it was a title or bust. With a regular-season record below .500, an NCAA Tournament appearance only would come with a Big Ten Tournament win. In the title game, the Spartans beat rival Michigan, 2-1, in overtime to earn a Big Ten Tournament championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Football snaps Wisconsin’s 21-game home winning streak with 16-13 overtime win in Camp Randall Stadium
Men’s soccer wins Big Ten Tournament with 2-1 overtime over rival Michigan
Jesse O’Brien, Alyssa Girardi, Dillon Davis, Matt Sheehan, Zach Smith
Volleyball stuns defending national champion No. 7 UCLA 3-1 to advance to Sweet Sixteen in NCAA Tournament
Hockey defeats rival Michigan 7-2 at Munn Ice Arena before record-breaking crowd of 7,225 fans
Men’s basketball upsets then-No. 7 Kansas 67-64 at Georgia Dome in Champions Classic
Performance(s) of the fall: Le’Veon Bell and Matt Berry
MSU hockey’s sophomore forward Matt Berry scored three goals — his first collegiate hat trick — in MSU’s 7-2 win against Michigan. Meanwhile, junior running back Le’Veon Bell’s career-high 266 rushing yards and two scores at Minnesota
locked up a bowl berth for the Spartans.
Football’s Le’Veon Bell rushes for 266 yards and two touchdowns in regular-season finale at Minnesota
Beau Hayhoe, Dillon Davis, Matt Sheehan
Cross country’s Sara Kroll finishes first in Big Ten Cross Country Championships with time of 20:13 in 6,000-meter
Hockey’s Matt Berry scores hat trick in 7-2 win against rival Michigan
Alyssa Girardi, Josh Mansour, Jesse O’Brien
Men’s soccer’s Jay Chapman scores three goals in regular-season conference match against Indiana
Volleyball’s Kori Moster notches 20 digs and five assists in volleyball’s 3-2 win over then-No. 4 Nebraska