The No. 24 MSU men’s soccer team hopes to start off the 2010 season with a bang as they open up with an East Coast road trip with stops at No. 6 Maryland and Georgetown this weekend.
MSU will look to run off the success of the final game of the preseason — a 1-0 victory against No. 11 Duke, the team that knocked MSU out of the 2009 NCAA tournament second round.
Recruits come to MSU to play in big games across the country and the top-tier competition only improves the team, head coach Damon Rensing said.
“You need to play tough teams in the first six or so games to figure out where you are for the (Big Ten) conference,” Rensing said.
MSU returns all but one starter from last year’s 11-8-2 team and, with high expectations for this season, will open at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Maryland.
The Terrapins return nine starters from last year’s team that reached the NCAA tournament quarterfinals, including five seniors and six juniors, the most returning talent since its 2008 national championship team.
Maryland also brings in the fifth-best recruiting class, according to College Soccer News.
The Terrapins went 2-1 in the preseason with victories over Georgetown and a 3-0 win over No. 17 St. John’s.
Maryland is 9-5-1 in season openers at Ludwig Field, one of the more intimidating college soccer atmospheres, senior midfielder and co-captain Jeff Ricondo said.
“Playing at Maryland will be one of the top atmospheres we’ll play in all year,” Ricondo said. “They’re probably going to have 5-6,000 people out there under the lights, so it’s going to be an eye-opening experience. Hopefully playing at these places on the road, when we host a game we can use this experience to help us out.”
Following the game Friday, the team will travel down the coast to Georgetown for a 1 p.m. Sunday game.
The game will prove tough so early in the season and on the road, senior midfielder and co-captain Spencer Thompson said.
“Right after the Maryland game, we have to start preparing for (Georgetown) and allow our bodies to recover, wake up the next morning and have a practice to start preparing for what Georgetown is going to bring,” Thompson said. “We just need to follow the game plan and execute, stay together as a team and weather the storm that they bring.”
Georgetown returns eight starters and 11 seniors in a deep, experienced squad that went 9-8-2 last season and finished forth in the Big East.
The Hoyas are again picked to finish fourth in the Big East.
Rensing said the East Coast trip was scheduled to help the team grow with challenging games right as the season begins.
“We’re playing in very tough environments,” he said. “But we need to relish that and be excited about that. That’s why we did it.”
The season-opening road trip will start a tough season slate, Rensing said.
The coach could have scheduled a softer schedule, but believes in the strength of the team.
“We do have a really difficult schedule,” Rensing said. “But we wouldn’t have done it if we hadn’t thought the guys could do it.”
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