Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Kickers steal victory, 'trophy' in overtime

October 16, 2000

ANN ARBOR - While the MSU football team prepares to meet its biggest rival Saturday, and faithful fans prepare to guard Sparty against vandals, the MSU men’s soccer team began the week on a good note with a 2-1 victory over the Wolverines in double overtime.

After winning the national club championship the last two years, Michigan (4-6) is in its inaugural varsity season. In an attempt to get the program off the ground, the game was marketed heavily and moved from an intramural field to U-M Soccer Field - the women’s soccer field.

The pep band, cheerleaders and 2,173 fans provided an atmosphere that proved to be the 12th man for the Wolverines.

But the Spartans (7-5-1) won.

The 12th man proved to be effective when it assisted on the first goal of the game at the 10:41 mark of the fist half when U-M defender Brian Peters put a shot past MSU senior goalie T.J. Lieckfelt.

MSU head coach Joe Baum said the lively atmosphere helped U-M to score its first goal.

“I think they came out with a lot of emotion going - they were pumped,” Baum said.

“I do think it helped them get that first goal. We made a defensive mistake and they jumped on it. I think the crowd helped them, I think it was a great day for college soccer.”

After firing two hard consecutive shots at U-M goalie Brad King, senior forward John Benoist was taken down by a U-M defender at the 32:22 mark and rewarded with a penalty shot.

Benoist, who tied the game with the shot, said he missed a penalty shot last week against Loyola-Chicago so he had to hit this one with a little more force to make sure it went home.

“We did a nice job (regrouping) and I’m really proud of the guys for the way they came back,” Benoist said. “I just told the guys it was going to be a dog fight. We knew from the beginning it was going to be a war. We were in a situation where we had to see what we are made of and I think we did.”

The two rivals remained at a gridlock the entire second half and the first overtime period until senior forward Steve Williford put the game away at the 106:49 mark.

“For everything I’ve been through for the past two years, it just makes it all worth it,” Williford said. “We still have a lot of work to do. We still have a lot of big games left.”

Baum said Williford, a fifth-year senior, has suffered through injuries the past two years, but is the team’s best player when healthy.

“He’s been hurt (off and on) for two solid years,” Baum said “When he’s well he’s our best player. Its just nice to have him back and to enjoy his fifth year. You’ve got to give him credit. This kid’s been hurt - he hasn’t been training that much. For him to play three overtime games in a row - it’s amazing.”

U-M head coach Steve Burns added to the magnitude of the newly formed rivalry when he bought a wooden statue of what some called a bear and others perceived as an owl, with one blue eye and one green eye.

He called Baum and they decided it would be used as a traveling trophy held by the winning team each year.

Burns said he thinks the trophy will take on a life of its own.

“It’s a nice way to start the rivalry. We’ll be able to use this next year in East Lansing,” Burns said.

“We have to start figuring out ways to win these games,” he said. “Both teams got stretched out in the overtime, we were reaching real deep.”

Baum said it’s nice to add tradition to college sport.

“Right now it’s so new that it’s hard for me to really get into it entirely, but I think as the years roll on it adds a little tradition,” Baum said. “I think it was a great gesture on the part of the University of Michigan.”


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