A junior helped propel the MSU men’s soccer senior class into the record books.
Junior forward Domenic Barone scored twice in the team’s 2-0 win against Oakland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field.
It was the senior class’ first tournament win — and the program’s first since 2001 — despite being the first class in school history to go to the tournament all four years.
Head coach Damon Rensing was excited for the seniors.
“I’m just really happy for the players,” Rensing said. “It was a great team effort, we stuck together and finally got a shutout and we had a couple of big plays. Give credit to Oakland, it was a heck of a game, and I thought we kept our composure and finished a couple of chances.”
Oakland knocked MSU out of the tournament in 2007 and the Spartans were able to return the favor this year. The win is MSU’s first since ending the season on a five-game winless slide.
Barone scored on a penalty kick in the 48th minute and on a shot coming in from the right side on a breakaway in the 62nd minute to give the Spartans the 2-0 decision.
Thursday’s win was the most meaningful of his career, pushing the seniors into a new realm, Barone said.
“It feels good, I’ve known most of these seniors since I was about 10 or 11 years old, playing with them,” he said. “Knowing it could be their last game and that they haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game and we haven’t done well, it’s the best group of guys I’ve been with and I just want to keep it going.”
Senior midfielder Spencer Thompson said it was a special victory, but bigger things await.
“Every time you can get a win in the NCAA Tournament, it’s just a great feeling,” Thompson said. “Unfortunately this is only my first win in the NCAA Tournament, but it’s great to get the monkey off our back and we’re looking forward to Butler now.”
The Spartans now will take their four-year tournament run on the road for the first time.
MSU (12-7-1) must venture to Butler for the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs are the No. 13 seed and 16-0-3 on the season. The game kicks off at 1 p.m Sunday.
The Spartans are on the road in the tournament for the first time since 2004, and Butler will provide a unique playing surface on FieldTurf, Rensing said.
“We’ve played in enough environments,” he said. “We’ve played at Duquesne, who’s on FieldTurf, and might be similar to Butler. … The Big Ten, what a conference this is, one of the top conferences in the country — if it’s not the top — it’s definitely prepared us for the NCAA Tournament.”
A difficult regular-season schedule has prepared MSU for the matchup against an undefeated foe, Barone said.
“It will be a little different, but we’ve played at (No. 2 seed) Maryland, at (No. 9) Notre Dame, big teams like that, and we were fortunate to come away with wins,” Barone said. “We’re used to going into tough situations like that and we’ve played Butler the past few springs and one time there, so we got a feel of it and I think we’ll do alright.”
The game will be the only thing on the team’s mind this weekend, Rensing said.
“When we leave Saturday, there will be nothing we have to think about,” he said. “No class or anything else, but that game against Butler.”
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