Strapped in shoulder pads, Jeff Ricondo propelled the MSU men’s soccer team past Butler on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The senior midfielder missed the previous seven games with a collar bone injury and came in with 11 minutes left in a 0-0 tie, hoping to ignite the Spartans (13-7-1). Ricondo did more than just provide a spark: he rocketed a ball into the net and MSU unseated the No. 13 seed and previously-unbeaten Butler, 1-0.
“Waiting to get in, I was just hoping I could make an impact,” Ricondo told MSU Athletic Communications after the game. “It’s been rough sitting for so long, but I just wanted to get in there and not mess up and not lose the game for us. Then I was lucky enough to get the goal and it’s something I’ll remember the rest of my life.”
Ricondo’s goal wasn’t a surprise to head coach Damon Rensing.
“He’s scored big goals a lot this year,” Rensing told MSU Athletic Communications. “He scores big goals in big moments, Jeff is special and came back, took one shot and he was the man.”
The Bulldogs pressed the Spartans for most of the game, but were unable to get a shot past senior goalie Avery Steinlage, who made several spectacular saves.
Rensing said the team advancing past the second round for the first time since the co-national championship year of 1968 is a big step for the program.
“I‘m very proud of our team today,” he said. “It was a huge team win.”
MSU will play No. 4 North Carolina next Sunday.
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