The Central Michigan defense was able to tame the MSU women’s soccer team’s top two scorers in the first half Sunday, but the forward duo of sophomore Laura Heyboer and senior Lauren Hill did what they do best in the second.
Heyboer scored two goals in two minutes and Hill scored her team-leading fifth goal of the season in the 77th minute, as the Spartans beat CMU, 4-0, at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field.
“In the first half, Central did a very good job of marking our players up top and we figured out, in order to get the ball to girls up top, we needed to play space right into our feet,” Heyboer said. “We were able to play feet a little bit more, spin them, take our space and I think our hard work in the first half helped out in the second half because they got tired.”
If the Chippewas (2-3) were tired in the second half, it was the Spartans (3-0-1) who were fatigued in the first half. After a 1-1 tie against California-Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara on Thursday, the Spartans arrived back in East Lansing late Friday night.
They had a quick practice Saturday morning before the football game, but both players and head coach Tom Saxton said the game in California – added late last spring – was the reason for the team’s sluggish first half play.
“We fit that California trip in kind of at the last minute and when we did it we knew we were taking a little bit of a risk with this game,” Saxton said. “It’s a tough position after you just went to the West coast and you come back and have a big game against a tough opponent. Central is a good team and they set a very physical tone and it took us a while to get into it but the kids adjusted very well.”
The Spartans started to break down the CMU defense midway through the first half when a missed shot by sophomore midfielder Hannah Peterson led to a MSU corner kick. The kick by senior midfielder Laura Sinacola
bounced around in front of the goal and the Spartans had two chances – the first a miss by junior defender Samantha Cook – before junior forward Cara Freeman scored off the rebound for the game’s first goal.
Heyboer had a chance to double the lead late in the first half, missing wide-left of a wide open net, but more than made up for it in the second half.
In the 54th minute, Heyboer took a long pass down the right side of the field and got behind the defense. Once in front of the net, two defenders nipped her heels – causing her to slide down – but she still managed to get off the shot, scoring at the 53:11 minute mark.
At the 54:57 mark, Heyboer scored again, getting by CMU goalkeeper Shay Mannino, who came out of net, for her fourth goal of the season.
“We made an adjustment at the halftime that was working for us,” Saxton said. “We talked about recognizing where the double team was and playing away from it, and as soon as we started playing those balls we started to break their defense down.”
Hill added her goal at the 76:13 minute mark for the team’s final goal, and has now scored in all four of MSU’s games.
The Spartans out-shot CMU 12-9, and sophomore goalkeeper Jill Flietstra had six saves, including one on CMU’s Jenna Hill at the 51:39 minute mark that drove rave reviews from her teammates and Saxton.
Hill kicked it high in the middle of the goal, but Flietstra leapt and tipped it up and over the crossbar for the save.
“It was sick,” Lauren Hill said. “She’s been saving our butts a lot.”
Through the season’s first three games, Flietstra has recorded three shutouts and the Spartans entered Sunday with a goals against average of 0.31, the second best in the Big Ten.
Hill said even with the long trip back from the West coast hampering them in the first half, the Spartans wanted to make sure not to take a step back against the Chippewas.
“The trip to California got to us. We had a long trip there, a long, hard fought game, and a long trip back, but it didn’t stop us to get goals, obviously,” Hill said. “Every game is supposed to be a progression and we didn’t want to go back. We wanted to go forward.”
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