Coming into the most important weekend of the season, the MSU women’s soccer team will be carrying heavy hearts.
Even as 13-time defending Big Ten Champion Penn State and Ohio State come to town, the minds and the thoughts of Spartan players will be fixated on the passing of Adalin Farnum. Farnum, the daughter of associate head coach Tammy Farnum, lost her more than four-year battle with cancer during the weekend.
As players shoulder the grief of Tammy Farnum’s loss, they are reminded that the processes of life often transcends the realm of sports.
“It’s definitely an emotional time for (Tammy) and her family and our Spartan family,” senior forward Laura Heyboer said. “Tammy is the strongest woman I know. She’s been great through this in giving us the strength to move forward this season. We’re going to be excited to get her back, but obviously we know this a time that she has to be with her family and we support her. Her Spartan family is waiting for her when she gets back.”
It appeared the Spartans (12-4-0, 5-3-0 Big Ten) certainly had an angel on their shoulder last weekend at Indiana.
After trailing for a majority of the game, junior forward Olivia Stander stepped up and found the back of the net with two seconds to play to force overtime. Just four minutes into overtime, senior forward Hannah Peterson netted the game-winner to complete the comeback and send her team home with a smile.
“I thought the equalizer was coming at any moment but the clock started to wind down and it looked like it might not be meant to be,” women’s soccer head coach Tom Saxton said. “Honestly, in 21 years of head coaching, I’ve never seen a finish like this.”
The weekend will be a telling one for the Spartans. First off, the team has a 3 p.m. matchup Friday at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field against No. 14 Penn State (14-3-0, 7-1-0). The Nittany Lions enter the game with a commanding lead in the Big Ten standings and currently hold a 15-4-0 lead in the all-time series against MSU.
Penn State currently leads the conference in goals, assists and shutouts on the season and will prove to be a formidable opponent. However, Penn State hasn’t earned a win in East Lansing since 2005 and will have its hands full trying to quiet the momentum of the Spartans and their emotional two-game winning streak.
For Ohio State (8-6-1 overall, 3-3-1), the Buckeyes are in the same race as the Spartans to catch Penn State in the Big Ten standings. The Buckeyes hold a narrow 9-8-0 lead in the all-time series but have lost two of the past three matchups against MSU.
As the players look ahead to the weekend, many see an opportunity to beat two of their fiercest rivals and make some noise in the Big Ten.
“The Penn State, Ohio State weekend; I think that’s basically everyone’s favorite weekend because they’re always two of our top rivals,” senior goalkeeper Jill Flietstra said. “We always want to go out there and beat them. At home, we’ve always beat them at home since I’ve been here so I think we’re excited, and we’re going to play with that emotion and get this win. Hopefully Tammy will be there to celebrate that win with us.”
Although the weekend is critical in the Big Ten race, the Spartans will not miss the opportunity to use it to celebrate the life of Adalin Farnum. A brief ceremony will be held before Friday’s game, and fans are encouraged to wear pink in honor of Adalin.
“(Tammy Farnum) has been amazing, and I think that has set the tone,” Saxton said.
“It’s obviously been a sad couple of days, but I’ve been uplifted by all the outpouring of support and how well our team has handled themselves and the way we’re represented across the board.”