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Women's soccer team nearly unbeatable at DeMartin Stadium

September 29, 2010

The MSU women’s soccer team takes the phrase “Home sweet home” to another level.

DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field opened in 2008 and after two full seasons — and almost halfway through a third — the team has lost just a single game on its home field.

The team has a 20-1-3 record at DeMartin, going 9-0-2 in 2008, 8-1-1 in 2009 and 5-0-1 so far this year.

“I’m really proud to be a part of that (home record),” sophomore forward Olivia Stander said. “I think we just have a lot of pride in our home field and we prepare differently when we play at home. We get really excited for the games and we just have that confidence
about us that when we step out onto the field, no one’s going to beat us.”

Junior forward and two-time All-American Laura Heyboer is one of nine juniors on the team who will graduate as the first class to play all four years at the new home stadium.

“The feeling we have here, this is our home turf and we want to defend our place here. We have so much passion and energy for not only our sport, not only DeMartin Stadium, but Michigan State in general,” Heyboer said.

In 2009, the team broke the school record for consecutive home games without a loss, going on an 18-game unbeaten streak that dated back to the previous season.

Head coach Tom Saxton said he wants opposing teams to fear coming into East Lansing to play the Spartans, but he doesn’t think they’re scared just yet.

“Eventually, if you keep posting such a strong home record, teams start to think about it and you can get in their head coming in,” Saxton said. “I’m not sure that’s the case yet, but that’s what we’re working toward.”

Having flawless games is something the program has been emphasizing for years, Saxton said. The team has five home games at DeMartin remaining this season and hopes to continue getting the same results.

“In our sport, it’s such a hard-fought and closely contested event, game in and game out,” Saxton said. “I think you’ve really got to take advantage of the edge you have when playing at home.

“Our players take great pride in the record they established and we want to keep building and feeding on that and create our own legacy.”

Beyond her years

When Heyboer went down with a season-ending injury last season, then-freshman forward Olivia Stander was forced to see full-time action.

Just a year later, the sophomore Stander has become a starter for the Spartans and is arguably one of the elite offensive players in the Big Ten.

Stander has five goals and is tied with Heyboer and six others for the Big Ten lead
in scores. She also has taken 32 shots, the most on the team
this season.

The Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., native said the key to maturing as a player so quickly has been her coaches.

“The coaches both really encourage me to go to goal and be selfish when I’m in the box because I have the tendency, most times, to pass,”
Stander said.

“With their encouragement and practice, it has really helped.”

Discipline is the key

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Through nine games in 2010, the Spartans are one of the Big Ten’s most disciplined teams.

They have committed the fewest amount of fouls (72) and fewest offsides penalties (13) in the conference.

Saxton said he’s happy to see a disciplined team, but so few fouls also can be a negative thing.

“Sometimes it can mean you’re playing a good, clean game or you’re keeping the ball so the other team has to follow you,” he said.

“And other times it can indicate that we’re not (embracing) the physical side of the game enough. I think there’s a little of both in that, quite frankly.”


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