Spartans lose 2-1 to No. 10 Indiana, clinch home playoff game
A lot more than bragging rights was on the line as the No. 13 MSU men’s soccer team travelled to No. 10 Indiana for the final regular season soccer game of the season. Entering Sunday’s game in Bloomington, the Spartans controlled their own destiny in their quest for the program’s first-ever home Big Ten Tournament game.
With one game remaining, MSU sat on 13 points in the conference season with a 4-2-1 record in Big Ten play, while Indiana owned a joint share of fourth place with a 2-0-5 Big Ten record. Under conference tournament rules, the top eight teams would qualify for the tournament and the top four seeds would host quarterfinal games. Although Indiana required a win to guarantee their placement as a tournament host, a draw would have done the job for MSU.
Only minutes into the game, however, Indiana significantly imperiled MSU’s chances. After an onslaught of first-half chances, the Hoosiers’ presence in the box finally paid off when redshirt-senior defender Phil Fives knocked a dainty toe-poke to the far post out of MSU goalkeeper Jimmy Hague’s reach. With the ball rebounding off of the goal post, Indiana midfielder Trevor Swartz retrieved the ball and exploited the defensive confusion to score his fourth goal of the season.
Just before the end of the half, however, MSU reversed the tide. The Spartans’ attacking endeavors finally found an outlet through true freshman Michael Beckett. Beckett, who had in the last game headed in a game-winning goal against Notre Dame, hung a cross from the left side perfectly to the back post.
Several straining Indiana Hoosiers were just out of reach, but MSU sophomore attacker Ryan Sierakowski was not. The leading scorer for MSU capped off the goal by bolting his shot into the back of the net to tie the game 1-1 in the 33rd minute.
At halftime, MSU trailed in the shot department 4-8. The Spartans took their momentum forward.
In the second half, MSU was feet wide from seemingly booking their ticket back to East Lansing. Sierakowski individually zippered through the Indiana back line in the 67th minute, finally releasing a wayward effort from the right-hand side. Seven minutes later, freshman attacking midfielder Giuseppe Barone tried his luck from a few feet further, only to have his shot pushed wide by goalkeeper Christian Lomeli.
But for all of the Spartans’ efforts, they couldn’t finish — Indiana could. In the 85th minute, senior and the Hoosiers’ leading goal-scorer, Tanner Thompson, swooped in from the left wing, side-stepped several MSU defenders and vaulted the ball over the grasp of Hague. The shot perilously hit the post before ricocheting off the ground and across the goal line for a Hoosier win. With five minutes remaining, MSU was out of verve.
The 2-1 outcome was immediately euphoric for the Hoosiers and momentarily distressing for the Spartans, but the Spartans would find out a few minutes later that their ultimate goal was clasped — a Penn State 1-0 loss to Northwestern was enough to keep them in the picture.
Although the Spartans were overtaken by both Wisconsin and Indiana in the standings, they clung onto fourth place and a home-field game. There, they will likely face Penn State, although the team will await the official announcement by the Big Ten.