The MSU womens soccer team enters this years Big Ten tournament today in Champaign, Ill., without senior goalkeeper and co-captain Sara Kloosterman, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last weekends 1-0 loss to Penn State.
Kloosterman, who will stay on as MSUs goalie coach next year - passed the baton to her protégé - freshman goalie Stacy Heller - prematurely when the Spartans beat Bowling Green 1-0 Sunday. The game marked Hellers first career start and shutout.
The fifth-seeded Spartans will call on Heller again today when they kick off the first round of the tournament against this years host team, fourth-seeded Illinois, at noon.
Heller, who was coached by Kloosterman in the Olympic Development Program, said her nerves will be curbed since Kloosterman will be on the sideline supporting her.
Im more excited than nervous, Heller said. Just by having people on the sideline helping me out like Kloo, it helps so much. Her shoes are so incredibly large to fill and just by her being there cuts down on the size of her shoes a lot.
While icing her knee in the training room at Jenison Field House on Tuesday, Kloosterman said she has gotten over the disappointment of not being able to play in her final Big Ten tournament.
Honestly I could be really disappointed but Im really not, Kloosterman said. Ive left the team in good hands.
Even though the game is on the Illinis home field, the Spartans feel they can beat Illinois, which beat them Sept. 24 in Champaign, 2-1.
MSU head coach Tom Saxton said he was hoping to draw a team in the tournament that the Spartans lost to during the regular season.
My desire for the seedings is that we played somebody that weve lost to before, Saxton said. I wanted to be able to revenge one of our losses, and also following what I believe to be true in college sports, that its very difficult to beat a team twice in one season. Im not disappointed who we have to play other than the home-field factor.