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Senior looks to end unlikely MSU journey on high note

September 17, 2009

Senior defenseman Tim Granaderos attempts to take possession of the ball past midfielder Carter Poe of Duquesne during the Spartans’ game against Duquesne on Sept. 4.

Tim Granaderos rolled the dice when he decided to come to MSU.

After losing interest in soccer during his early high school years and almost quitting the game altogether, Granaderos didn’t receive any scholarship offers from Division I colleges.

So he was faced with a difficult decision: Go play college soccer at a small school or try to walk onto a Division I team.

“When I was deciding where to go to college, MSU was one of my last choices because some small schools were looking at me to play soccer,” Granaderos said. “But in the end I decided I wanted to go to a Big Ten school and if soccer was in those cards, then that’s great. And if it wasn’t, then it wasn’t.”

Granaderos decided MSU would be a good fit, mainly because of its proximity to his hometown of Portage and because it was where a lot of his friends were going.

During the summer, Granaderos worked hard to get into tip-top shape and when walk-on tryouts started in the fall of his freshman year, he impressed the MSU coaches enough to make the team.

But there was one problem — the Spartans’ roster already was completely full.

He was invited back to team workouts in the winter, and with the departure of the team’s seniors, there now was room for Granaderos on the roster.

Since then, the walk-on has worked his way from the bottom up, starting in only five games prior to this season and recording one goal and one assist in 52 appearances.

Now the team’s lone senior is the starting right defender and leads the Spartans with four assists.

“We never saw him kick a ball until he came on campus,” MSU head coach Damon Rensing said. “Now he’s starting and I think he’s an All-Big Ten caliber defender.”

With the departure of two starting defenders from last season’s team, and junior Nosa Iyoha moving up to midfield, the Spartans back line had holes to fill entering this season.

And in stepped Granaderos.

“We told Tim we thought he could be a guy to step up into one of those positions,” Rensing said. “He played hard all summer and got a lot of experience playing defense and won the starting spot.”

Also moving into a starting position was freshman defender Kevin Cope, who said Granderos helped him adjust to the college game.

“He sets a good example for us young guys,” Cope said. “I know I’m safe because of his athletic ability and speed. He’s always there to cover me and I feel comfortable with him back there.”

Rensing called Granaderos a “freak” for his aerial abilities, which Rensing credits to a great jumping ability, spot-on timing and lots of courage.

“He’s not afraid to stick his head in places where it might get hurt,” Rensing said. “He’s not afraid to go into the mix with a bunch of people and try to get something out of it.”

It was that courage that led Granaderos to score the game-winning goal against Michigan last season to keep the Spartans’ conference winning streak alive.

Without Granaderos’ timely first career goal, it’s unlikely the Spartans would have gone on to win the Big Ten conference championship.

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“That was definitely the highlight of my career,” Granaderos said.

“It was a great game and there’s nothing like scoring against your rival when it’s on national television. (Assistant coach) Joe Baum never lets me forget it. He calls it the ‘big play.’”

In Sunday’s 4-0 win over Wright State, Granaderos recorded two assists, one of which resulted in a goal by sophomore forward Domenic Barone. Barone celebrated by finding Granaderos and pretending to shine his shoes.

Rensing wasn’t surprised to see the celebration, as he said everyone on team wants to make this season as memorable as they can for the lone senior.

“He reminds all the players that it’s a privilege to play soccer at MSU and that it doesn’t go on forever,” Rensing said.

With the end approaching quicker than he’d like, Granaderos said he’s trying to soak in the little things, such as this weekend’s road trip to San Diego, Calif., where the Spartans will compete in the Nike Classic against Loyola Marymount and San Diego.

“It’s times like these you step back and smile because every moment of this is such a great experience,” Granaderos said.

“I’m hoping we go deep into the NCAA Tournament to extend the season as long as we can because this is it for me, it’s my last chance.”


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