The MSU womens soccer team will play the latter half of a four-game road trip this weekend - a trip that claimed two players to ankle injuries last weekend.
MSU (7-1-0 overall, 2-1-0 Big Ten), will look to prevent any further slide in conference play after a 2-1 defeat by Illinois last Sunday. The Spartans will play at Purdue at 4 p.m. Friday and at Indiana at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
MSU head coach Tom Saxton said MSU - which is tied for third place with Illinois in the Big Ten - has to understand that it is in the thick of the Big Ten race.
We have to look at every game as an opportunity to close in on the upper echelon or put ourselves in a position to make a run at the (Big Ten) title, Saxton said.
Saxton said that the team got off to a slow start vs. Illinois and will have to focus on coming out off the gates harder this weekend to prevent falling below .500 in the Big Ten.
I wouldnt call (the Illinois loss) a letdown, I would call it an adjustment to our first long road trip, Saxton said. We werent quite as sharp as we needed to be in the first half Sunday (versus the Illini), so we need to look for a little more consistency this weekend.
But the second half of the road trip could prove to be bumpier than the fist, considering senior midfielder and co-captain Gina Dawson and junior defender Erin Stohl are questionable for both games.
Gina Dawson had her ankle cracked by someone on Illinois and shes questionable, maybe doubtful for the weekend so thats a big hole in our physical presence and our offense, Saxton said. Erin Stohl also sprained her ankle and she is also doubtful. Shes been one of our best defenders but we also have a little bit of security in that we have a little bit of depth.
The depth Saxton refers to comes from junior forward Emily Clarke and senior midfielder Kim Van Cleef. He added that both players can fill the holes in the lineup.
Van Cleef said regardless of the injuries the team will have to step up since it feels it has a chance to contend for the Big Ten title.
If Gina (and Stohl) cant play (this weekend) we know what we have to do, we just have to step up and score, she said. Our team is deep enough that big injuries arent going to hurt us. I think our team is definitely good enough where were going to pull through and be fine.
The Spartans face a young Boilermakers team consisting of two seniors and 13 first-year and redshirt players.
Saxton finds similarities between both teams.
All indications Im getting from their (Purdue) scouting report (say that) their younger players are their best players, Saxton said. I think like our team, they have a very good freshman class contributing. Theyve kind of been a mystery to me as to how well theyve been doing.
Saxton added that similar to Purdue, Indiana is also young but erratic in play from game to game.
Sometimes (the Hoosiers) come and theyre awesome and theyre on, and sometimes theyre not, Saxton said. On a day when theyre not on you can bury them early. Theyre not a team that bounces back real well.
Clarke said the team is looking to make progress.
Were just trying to improve everything were already doing, she said.