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Dynamic duo leading Spartans this season

October 20, 2010

Sophomore forward Olivia Stander and Northwestern defenseman Nichole Jewell fight for the ball during the first half. Stander recorded the lone goal in the 1-0 Spartan victory over Northwestern on Sunday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field.

Photo by Josh Radtke | The State News

There have been many dynamic duos throughout history, such as Batman and Robin or Starsky and Hutch. In women’s collegiate soccer, there might not be a better duo than MSU junior forward Laura Heyboer and sophomore forward Olivia Stander.

The two have combined for 83 shots, 17 goals and six assists in the 2010 season. No other duo in the Big Ten can compare to those numbers.

Before the season, Heyboer still was trying to recover from a season-ending knee injury in 2009 and Stander — who stepped in when Heyboer went down — was unsure if she even would be a starter.

But things started coming together once the two got on the field and started learning how the other plays, Heyboer said.

“The start of this year, we started working so well together,” Heyboer said. “Last year, we didn’t get a whole lot of playing time together, so finally we’re starting to get on the same page and we’re starting to realize where each other’s runs are going to be, how we can put the ball (where) the other likes it and how to set each other up.

“There are times where I’m looking for a low ball and she’ll be the one to play it right there. She’s perfect, spot on every time.”

As the season progressed, the Spartans racked up wins and were headed on offense by Stander and Heyboer going goal-for-goal. In five straight games where the team scored goals this season, both Heyboer and Stander accounted for one apiece.

“I don’t go into every game and say, ‘If Laura scores I have to get that goal,’” Stander said. “I just go out there and feed off of her most of the time. She brings a lot of energy and success to the team so I just kind of back her up and help.”

Although Stander speaks like Robin to Heyboer’s Batman, the junior forward said her teammate is much more than just a sidekick.

“We have a lot of respect for each other. I have a lot of respect for her not only as a teammate but as a friend,” Heyboer said. “She’s one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and skillwise she’s unbelievably talented.

“She makes the best runs, pulling defenders away from me, giving me space, talking to me (saying), ‘Hey we got to pick things up, let’s get the team going.’”

The two-time All-American Heyboer has netted a conference-leading 10 goals this season and Stander is close behind, in fourth with seven. However, the sophomore has the edge over Heyboer in assists, four to two, and shots, 46-37.

Even more impressive is the Spartans’ 9-3-2 record with only a single starter other than Stander and Heyboer — junior forward Hannah Peterson — having scored. The Spartans rank eighth in the conference in goals scored with 20 and the pair has scored 17 of them.

MSU head coach Tom Saxton said he isn’t worried that only two players are scoring the team’s goals because some teams don’t even have one offensive playmaker.

“It’s a lot of fun (coaching them),” Saxton said. “You can battle and grind in these games in our sport and if you don’t have talented goal scorers you can still come out on the short end and have a tough season. To have a couple of brilliant goal scorers makes my job a hell of a lot easier.”

Both Heyboer and Stander are also top amongst the conference in total points — which is tallied by giving two points for a goal and one point for an assist — and game-winning goals. Heyboer is first with 22 points and five game-winners, whereas Stander is third in points with 18 and tied for second with four game-winners.

Stander said at this point the two are “definitely” playing the best soccer they ever have.

“We just both play really unselfishly and (the stats) don’t really matter going into the game,” she said. “We don’t think, ‘I need to score.’ The fact we’re so unselfish and can play off each other adds to our success.”

With the duo having one more year together, Saxton said they could become one of the best one-two punches the women’s soccer program has ever seen.

“It’s been nice to see their understanding of each other develop and if they continue to grow they can be one of the most prolific scoring tandems that you’ll find in Big Ten soccer over the years ahead,” he said.

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