With eyes on a repeat championship, the MSU men’s soccer team kicks off the Big Ten tournament Wednesday afternoon.
The No. 20 MSU Spartans are the No. 3 seed against No. 6 Ohio State at 2 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio.
The winner will take on either Wisconsin or Northwestern in the semifinals.
Last year, MSU won its first Big Ten men’s soccer tournament since 2008.
“This is the one tournament that any one team can win no matter what you’re seeded,” head coach Damon Rensing said. “And they’re at home so they’ve got a lot of motivation. It’ll be a tough game for us, for sure.”
MSU and the Buckeyes have some prior history in hard-fought games.
The Buckeyes tied the Spartans 1-1 in the Big Ten home opener on Oct. 13 at DeMartin Stadium. Ohio State scored with less than 10 minutes to play to force extra time.
Despite outshooting the Buckeyes 36-20 on the day, the Spartans couldn’t get any of their chances past goalkeeper Alex Ivanov, who made eight saves in the game.
“It’s a lot of final third, final pass kind of stuff,” junior forward Tim Kreutz said. “We weren’t patient enough to find the right shot. We would get around the box and let them rip every time. We need to make him make better saves than the first time we played him.”
Ivanov ranks eighth in the nation with 101 saves in the regular season.
Since playing against MSU, Ohio State has been on a tear, going 3-1-1 in the last five games on the season.
The stretch includes a double-overtime win against Big Ten regular season champions Penn State.
The Spartans have suffered three of their four losses on the season since their clash with the Buckeyes.
Both Rensing and senior defender Kevin Cope said there is some unfinished business with the Buckeyes and to go into Columbus and beat them would be extra money in the bank.
“We think we got the short end of the stick when we played them,” Cope said. “We thought it was a game that we could win, and hopefully we can prove it this time and we can get a ‘W,’ especially under these circumstances.”
After beating archrival Michigan 2-0 and getting The Big Bear Trophy back last Saturday, Kreutz said the Spartans have some extra momentum heading into the tournament on a high note with eyes on defending their title.
“We have a good morale going into this tournament,” he said. “We’re focused … and we want that feeling back. We want to defend it and get another trophy.”