Six games have been played by the MSU women’s soccer team at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field this season. And in all six games, the opposing team has been unable to get the ball past junior goalkeeper Jill Flietstra and the MSU defense.
The Spartans (7-3-1 overall, 2-1 Big Ten) faced Indiana (4-8-1, 0-4-0) and Purdue (5-7-2, 1-2-1) this weekend and recorded back-to-back 2-0 wins.
“This was huge,” junior forward Laura Heyboer said after the victory over Purdue. “We didn’t beat either of these teams last year in the Big Ten, so this weekend we for sure had our marks on them. We did great and I’m proud of our team.”
Heyboer led the team with three goals on the weekend, including a bicycle kick against the Hoosiers on Friday and a laser shot from 20 yards out against the Boilermakers.
“She just sees things that nobody else does,” MSU head coach Tom Saxton said. “The first goal she scored (today), like the one she scored on Friday, there’s few other players in the country that would take that chance that way. She’s a two-time All-American and deservedly so.”
The wins also marked the seventh and eighth shutouts of the season for junior goalkeeper Jill Flietstra and the Spartans defense.
“We’ve got a great goalkeeper, we’re organized defensively and we’re starting to get into creating a real defensive legacy here with the number of shut outs we’re putting up and I want to build on that,” Saxton said.
“I don’t pay a ton of attention to statistics, but anytime you can shut an opponent out and start stringing those together, those are things the team will start to bring to the field inside them.”
With the score 1-0 against Purdue on Sunday, the Boilermakers took a corner kick that almost sunk the first goal allowed by MSU at DeMartin. However, Flietstra made a diving stop and saved what would’ve been the tying goal.
“They got a pretty good cross in and a header and hit in kind of in the corner and I just reacted and got there somehow,” Flietstra said.
The Hudsonville, Mich., native said one of the reasons for success was because the team was able to match the tough attitude with which the Purdue team played.
“We looked to be just as physical, if not more physical with them,” she said. “We knew they had a few good players that we had to knock around a little bit and I think we did that.”
Saxton agreed that the team needed to match the level of physicality and gave his team “an absolute A-plus” in doing so.
The coach said along with the toughness Purdue brought, they also brought a look the Spartans haven’t experienced since early in the season.
“We haven’t played against a team that attacks so well with their outside backs since earlier in the season,” Saxton said. “It was a little bit of our wing players getting used to picking up the defensive responsibilities earlier instead of in a reactionary way. Once we did that, they didn’t have nearly the time on the ball as they did in the first half.”
The team’s next game will be Saturday at Michigan, which will certainly be one of their biggest. It also is the same day that the two undefeated football teams play.
“The main thing right now is to build on the momentum of two very satisfying and strong Big Ten victories and just let everybody regroup and relax and get physically ready to take on the next challenge,” Saxton said.
“What I want to do is keep everybody on a low key because I think — with the football team playing Michigan on the same day and us going down there — it’s going to be a lot of hype. You don’t want to get too high too soon, so I’ll try to reign them in this week.”
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