An own goal in the first half sunk the No. 17 MSU men’s soccer team as they fell to Wisconsin 1-0 in Madison, Wisc., Sunday afternoon.
The Spartans (8-3-3 overall, 1-2-1 Big Ten) officially were eliminated from contention for the Big Ten regular season title after Penn State beat Northwestern in double overtime earlier that day.
Wisconsin got on the board in the 26th minute when Paul Yonga brought the ball down toward the end line and crossed it in front of sophomore goalkeeper Zach Bennett.
Instead of finding his own teammate, Yonga’s cross bounced off junior defender Ryan Keener and past a defenseless Bennett.
“It’s 50/50 that it’s flukey, but you have to give Wisconsin a little bit of credit because their guy beat us on the line and made a good decision with the ball,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “When you do those kinds of things, that’s what happens. You’d rather have been beat on a better goal.”
The rest of the half was mostly played in the middle of the field with just two shots coming from the Badgers and a shot from sophomore midfielder Jay Chapman.
The Spartans went on the attack in the second half, but came up empty after good play from the Wisconsin defense.
Junior forward Tim Kreutz had the best chance of the game for the Spartans in the 64th minute after a set piece, but his shot went just wide of the net. Senior midfielder Brent McIntosh followed that up with a great strike on goal about five minutes later.
“We’ve got to take initiative,” Rensing said. “We responded in the second half and it was too little too late. They had good ball movement and good defenders. We put ourselves in a tough position to get a goal.”
Bennett was the lone player that kept the Spartans in the game, routinely coming up in the clutch and making five saves on the day.
Rensing thought Bennett’s performance in net was minor, and he told the team before the game it wasn’t going to be the type of game where both teams had a plethora of chances.
“He made a couple saves, but Wisconsin didn’t create that many dangerous opportunities,” he said. “When called upon, certainly Zach made the saves. The chances we get we’re going to have to take them with conviction, and I don’t think we did that.”
One noticeable piece missing from the game was junior forward Adam Montague. He won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week following an impressive week that saw him score against UIC and Northwestern in early October.
Rensing said he is hurt and likely out for the rest of the regular season.
The Spartans take on defending NCAA national champions Indiana at 7 p.m. Friday on the road before finishing the season at home against No. 2 Notre Dame on Nov. 5 and Michigan on Nov. 9 at DeMartin Stadium.
Many might look at the upcoming schedule and would call it a tough stretch of games, but Rensing prefers to see it as an opportunity.
“We’re 8-3-3 and have a strong RPI,” he said. “We’ve got three good opportunities before the Big Ten Tournament. It’ll be very difficult, but they’re great opportunities for our guys.”