Men's soccer focused on themselves prior to Big Ten Tournament
In a Big Ten conference featuring four teams ranked in the top 25 in the United Soccer Coaches Poll, including No. 2 Indiana, No. 12 Michigan and No. 24 Maryland, you would think the No. 8 Spartans would focus on these top ranked opponents heading into the Big Ten Tournament next weekend.
Well, they don't. Their only focus is on themselves.
“We don’t really see the opponents, we take care of ourselves and what we do as a group. That’s the most important thing for us,” midfielder Ken Krolicki said. “We can play with anybody in the Big Ten and in the nation.”
Krolicki isn’t the only one who thinks this way, as the exact train of thought is spread throughout his teammates as well.
“We don’t focus on anybody, because everybody is the same and anybody can beat anybody,” defenseman Jimmy Fiscus said. “We can’t take anybody lightly.”
This includes theHoosiers, who MSU tied 1-1 with on Sunday night and also pose one of the biggest threats to Spartans in the Big Ten tourney.
“It was a great test, they’re one of the best teams in the country,” Fiscus said. “A lot of games are going to be just like that, right to the very end and I think it’s good we got our momentum going late in the year, instead of earlier in the year.”
Krolicki said playing Indiana was not only a good test for playing in the Big Ten Tournament, but for the NCAA tournament as well.
But playing the Hoosiers wasn’t the only test for the Spartans during the season, as MSU played against six straight ranked teams in the middle of the season, going 4-1-1 in that stretch with the lone loss against non-conference opponent then-No. 24 Akron.
But in Big Ten play, MSU had its way for the most part going 5-0-3 (11-2-3 overall) and claiming second place in the Big Ten standings alongside Indiana, who also went 5-0-3 in Big Ten play (13-0-4 overall).
One of those Big Ten wins and wins against a ranked opponent, was against then-No. 16 Ohio State, who the Spartans demoralized 5-1, and will play in the first round of the Big Ten tournament this Sunday at DeMartin Stadium with the start time at 1 p.m.
While the Spartans kept the success going, the Buckeyes were shook up and went on to lose seven more straight games to end the season with a 7-9-1 overall record (3-5-0 in Big Ten play) and scoring two goals in that eight game losing stretch.
If MSU takes care of business Sunday, it will set up a possible rematch with the Hoosiers if the No. 2 ranked team in the nation also takes care of business against a 5-9-2 Penn State team that lost to Indiana 1-0, earlier in the season.
The other side of the bracket hosts a couple of prime matchups between Maryland and a good 8-4-4 Wisconsin team, and the Wolverines against the winner of Northwestern and Rutgers matchup. The Maize and Blue are also the Big Ten regular season champions after beating the Terrapins 2-1 in overtime on Sunday.
All of this started with head coach Damon Rensing and knowing he “had a good group” of freshman and sophomores three years ago.
“Our guys worked hard, and we challenged them and it wasn’t easy,” Rensing said. “This isn’t an easy thing and our guys responded.”
Rensing said making realistic goals and hard work are also keys to having success and finishing towards the top of the Big Ten regular season standings.
“We don’t make goals that we can’t achieve,” Rensing said. “If you set a goal and you put your mind to work, you have that chance to do it, and that’s all you can ask for from these guys.”