Coming into a pair of games this weekend, the MSU women’s soccer team is looking for a quick start and a full effort in each game, something the Spartans did not show in their previous game, a 3-2 loss to Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Sunday.
The Spartans (3-2) fell behind 3-0 at halftime Sunday before finding their rhythm. However, it was too late.
“Once halftime hit, everybody just kind of looked around at each other and everybody was upset about the score,” junior forward Laura Heyboer said. “It was great the way we responded as a team. We came out (in the second half) and we were hungrier than the other team was.”
The Spartans said they have to come out focused at the start to avoid falling into a hole again.
“If we come out that way in every game, we’re going to get goals scored on us no matter what and no matter how good our defense is,” Heyboer said.
With the loss behind them, the Spartans set their sights on Friday, when the team welcomes DePaul (3-2-1) to DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field.
DePaul comes in with a 1-1 record against Big Ten teams this season — a 2-0 win against Iowa and a 2-1 double-overtime loss to Northwestern. The Blue Demons will look to deliver a knockout punch to an MSU team that sits just outside of the Top 25 in the TopDrawerSoccer.com rankings.
“We really need to take another step forward because this (game) is very important for us now as we move into the second quarter of the season and (we need) to continue to establish ourselves on our home field,” MSU head coach Tom Saxton said. “This is a huge game for us. The Big East is an outstanding conference and any time you can get results against other BCS conference teams, if you will, it really helps build your résumé.”
Returning 10 of 11 starters from last season, the Blue Demons play were chosen to finish in sixth of eight in the Big East in the coaches’ preseason poll. Heyboer, the two-time All-American selection, said although DePaul is a dangerous team, their veterans won’t have an experience advantage against the Spartans, who showcase their own experienced group with seven players who started last season.
“We got to look at that and say, ‘You know, we got just as many good players coming back and we’ve got even better freshman,’” she said. “So we’re excited and we’re ready to take them on.”
In order for MSU to avoid a second straight upset loss, they will need to put Sunday’s performance behind them. Junior goalkeeper Jill Flietstra is the Spartans starting goalkeeper and statistically was one of the top in the Big Ten last season. After letting three goals slip by her early in the game Sunday, the Hudsonville, Mich., native will need to bounce back quickly.
“I do (believe she’ll be ready),” Saxton said. “She’s a true competitor with great experience in big games and I know that not only Jill, but the entire team will want to make amends and have a strong defensive performance against DePaul.
“We’ll put the back line and Jill through the exact situations that led to the Milwaukee goals and hopefully we can (fix) any tactical weakness we have there.”
Flietstra agreed with her coach and said recovering won’t be an issue and that the team is ready to return to the field.
“Maybe it was a little bit of a reality check for everyone,” Flietstra said. “We let up three goals, but that didn’t mean anything. We came back in the second half and proved we were still a strong team. DePaul’s always a good team and always gives us a good match. We’ll be looking forward to it and it will be a good test for us.”
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