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Men's soccer team to face U-M in search of third straight win

October 22, 2009

The Big Bear Trophy sits comfortably in the trophy case inside the MSU men’s soccer team’s locker room.

But come Sunday, that trophy will be up for grabs when Michigan rolls into town.

“I want to go home with that bear and party with it one last time,” senior defender Tim Granaderos said. “In the Big Ten, every game is a fight, and we will be especially ready to bring it this weekend.”

Last season, Granaderos was the hero for the Spartans, coming off the bench in the second half and scoring the game-winning goal in the 78th minute to defeat the Wolverines 1-0 in Ann Arbor. It was also Granaderos’ first career goal as a Spartan.

“I’ll never live that goal down,” he said. “That was a huge goal, obviously, because we were playing our rival.”

But this season, it’s about more than just beating a rival. It’s about the Spartans turning the season around.

MSU (8-4-1) is a dismal 1-3-0 in the Big Ten and is looking to get in the win column to improve its seeding in the Big Ten Tournament.

The Wolverines haven’t had much success either this season, going 1-2-0 in the Big Ten and sitting one spot out of the league’s cellar, occupied by the Spartans.

With 10 of the 12 Big Ten games played this year decided by one goal or fewer, MSU head coach Damon Rensing is expecting another close match.

“Michigan will be ready to play and they are a good team,” Rensing said. “We get pumped up for it a lot and I know our guys will be ready for them.”

Statistically, something will have to give this weekend — as the Wolverines are leading the conference with a 2.07 goals a game average, while the Spartans have allowed only 0.58 goals a game, the fewest in the Big Ten.

MSU enters Sunday’s game coming off a 2-1 victory against Bowling Green on Wednesday, a game in which the Spartans recorded 21 shots but didn’t spark the offense until the second half.

“We just didn’t come out sharp,” junior goalkeeper Avery Steinlage said after Wednesday’s win. “We need to play better with Michigan coming to town this weekend.”

The Wolverines are coming off a much different midweek game, as No. 1 Akron traveled to Ann Arbor and routed U-M 5-1 on Tuesday.

The MSU coaches were on the scene scouting that game, and junior forward Jeff Ricondo said he’s confident the Spartans will have a sound game plan coming into Sunday to try and keep the Big Bear Trophy in East Lansing for another year.

“We know what’s at stake and we want to keep that bear here,” Ricondo said. “We will be prepared this Sunday.”

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