The MSU men’s soccer team came out flying in the first half of its midweek nonconference match against Valparaiso on Wednesday at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field, scoring two goals within 11 minutes and completely controlling possession.
The second half proved to be another story, as the Spartans lost their grip on the game, recording their lone shot of the half 23 minutes in and losing their firm grip on the possession battle.
But the two early goals recorded by sophomore forward Rubin Bega proved to be enough, pacing the Spartans to a 2-0 win.
“I thought our first half was very sharp,” MSU head coach Damon Rensing said. “The second half wasn’t our sharpest and maybe there was some fatigue after Sunday’s game against Ohio State. But we didn’t break and we stuck together and held onto the victory.”
The Spartans (5-2-1 overall) improve their all-time record against the Crusaders to 10-1-2, with the win giving MSU their first victory over Valparaiso since Oct. 18, 2006.
The victory also snapped the Spartans’ two-game losing streak.
“We hadn’t scored in the past two games,” Rensing said. “So it felt good to get that monkey off our back early.”
The Spartans took the lead eight minutes into the game when junior midfielder Spencer Thompson crossed the ball from the right into the 18-yard box to sophomore forward Domenic Barone. Barone fired a shot that was going wide to the left before Bega stretched out and tipped it into the goal.
Bega again found himself in the right place at the right time on the Spartans’ second goal, coming just more than two minutes later. Thompson took possession of the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and took on two defenders, beating them both to his right and passing to the far post to Bega, who again was able to deflect it into the goal.
“Ever since I was little, the ball would sometimes just hit me when I was running and go in and we’d win the game,” Bega said. “There’s luck in soccer and over the years I’ve learned where bounces are going to be.”
The Spartans continued to dominate play in the first half, taking seven shots and earning four corners compared to the Crusaders’ lone shot of the half, which wasn’t a threat to MSU junior goalkeeper Avery Steinlage.
But the Crusaders picked up their play in the second half, recording six shots and keeping Steinlage busy.
“We couldn’t get anything going in the second half,” Thompson said. “The long balls weren’t working, we weren’t winning the second balls and we were losing the 50-50 balls. Everything just didn’t seem to connect.”
But the Spartans will take the win, especially heading into this Sunday’s home match against Penn State, who defeated Michigan 2-0 on Sunday. The game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.
“We came out really hungry in the first half and I think that intensity will carry over,” Bega said. “We will be ready against Penn State and it will be another important Big Ten duel.”
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