MSU men's soccer begins final push for postseason
With the regular season winding down, the MSU men’s soccer team will soon be turning their focus to the postseason and more specifically, the Big Ten tournament.
The Spartans (7-5-2 overall and 2-1-2 in the Big Ten) are in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten standings, which is both a good and bad thing.
The good news for the fifth-place Spartans is they’re almost guaranteed a spot in the Big Ten tournament. It would take complete self-destruction for the Spartans to be in jeopardy of missing the Big Ten tourney, with three of their final four regular season games against B1G opponents (Northwestern, Michigan and Indiana).
Conference rivals Wisconsin (4-9-2 overall, 1-2-2 B1G) and Indiana (8-4-2, 1-3-1) would also have to finish the season strong, and even then it would be improbable because the 8th and 9th seeds play a single game playoff and the winner of that game plays the No. 1 seed.
The bad news, however, is that every Big Ten team is hungry for a title, and anything can, and will happen come tourney time.
And even though the postseason push looks relatively good for MSU, the Spartans are still taking it one game at a time, and are getting ready for a crucial game against B1G rival Northwestern on Saturday.
“They’re super important right now,” senior defender Jerome Cristobal said. “We are still going towards our goals of winning the Big Ten, and you know we still have three more Big Ten games and so me personally, I know I’m going to put everything forward and everyone is definitely going to put in the work in preparation to hopefully get four wins."
Another convincing element for the Spartans is they've been getting contributions from everybody. In recent games, the Spartans found the solution to their offensive struggles have been with key contributions by the underclassmen. The offense has had a hodgepodge of contributions by multiple freshmen like forwards Ryan Sireakowski, DeJuan Jones and defender Connor Corrigan.
"All of the freshmen are doing a really good job you know it’s not an easy transition coming in from high school soccer and club soccer then coming to the Big Ten level or D1 soccer," Cristobal said. "I think that they’ve really held their own and I can just see that they’re getting better and better each game."
But seventh-year head coach Damon Rensing has had high ambitions since the before the season started, and has had his eye set on a Big Ten title since the beginning of the year.
“Our goal for the beginning of the year was to put ourselves in position to challenge for the Big Ten title and we’re 2-1-2,” Rensing told the media.
“We’ve got to last a few more games so if you do that you’re going to put yourself in position for NCAA tournament talk too, so our goals haven’t changed we want to push for a Big Ten title and hopefully on the last game of the year that’s what we’re playing for.”
The last thing the Spartans have going for them is they’ve been in this position before. Under Rensing, MSU has made the NCAA tournament five times out of the last six years and Elite Eight appearances in back to back seasons in 2013 and 2014.
“These end of the season games don’t necessarily count for more, it’s still a win or still a loss but these teams are fighting for their lives at this point to make a difference in the Big Ten or get into the NCAA [tournament],” senior goalkeeper Zach Bennett said. “But we’ve got enough seniors here that we know what we’re doing and how to prepare these guys, but yeah it’s gonna get down to the nitty-gritty, especially in the Big Ten.”
The Spartans will travel to take on Northwestern on Saturday, with kickoff set for 3 p.m.