Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Spartans host Oakland in NCAA Tournament

November 17, 2010

Junior midfielder Mark Barone gets tangled up with Wisconsin’s Arnel Zahirovic. The Spartans defeated the Badgers 3-0 on Oct. 17 at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field.

Photo by Josh Radtke | The State News

The senior class of the MSU men’s soccer team will go down in history for its consistency.

But despite being the first class in MSU history to make it to the NCAA Tournament all four years, the team has one more thing they’d like to prove against Oakland at 1 p.m. Thursday at DeMartin Stadium at Old College Field — they can win a tournament game.

The four-year streak is an important step for the program, but a win would be sweeter, head coach Damon Rensing said.

“Just to get to four straight tournaments is quite a feat for them, not a lot of programs get to do that,” Rensing said. “But I know they want to get (a win), and once they get that you never know.”

Overall, this is MSU’s 14th appearance in the tournament, as the Spartans have compiled an all-time tournament record of 17-10-4.

In the previous three years, the Spartans (11-7-1) have lost their first game in the tournament — all at DeMartin Stadium — including a 2-1 loss against Oakland in 2007.

The loss to Oakland will prove a large motivator, senior midfielder Jeff Ricondo said. Ricondo is nursing a collarbone injury and his ability to play is a game-time decision.

“It’s huge,” Ricondo said of the 2007 loss.

“The guys that were here, we didn’t have huge roles on the team at that point, but we definitely owe these guys. There’s a lot of seniors out there that regret losing to them, it sticks in everyone’s minds.”

Senior midfielder Spencer Thompson expects the matchup with the Golden Grizzlies to have a better outcome this time around.

“It was unfortunate to lose freshman year to them, and broke our hearts actually,” Thompson said.

“Unfortunately in the game, we had one of our best players sent off and it just left a bad taste in our mouth and we finally get redemption.”

Oakland (7-10-3) will bring its best to East Lansing once again, after winning the Summit League Championship against Oral Roberts.

The Spartans won 11 games for the fifth consecutive season, despite a late season slide. All seven of the team’s losses came to teams in the NCAA Tournament and in the top 20 of the RPI.

The winner of the game will travel to Indianapolis to play the No. 13 seed Butler (16-0-3) on Sunday.

MSU beat the No. 2 seed Maryland and lost to No. 3 Akron, No. 10 Michigan — twice — and No. 14 Indiana. The scheduling will help the team now, when the games matter most, Rensing said.

“We know exactly who we can play (against),” he said. “We just need to recapture some of that feeling.

“And a good rivalry game against Oakland will hopefully get us back on the right foot.”

The team ended the season on a five-game winless streak after suffering some injuries, but the Spartans have new life, Ricondo said.

“It was a rough streak, but this is obviously a new season,” he said. “We just have to get back together and mentally rebuild and we’ll be fine.”

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The team started the season with the win against then-No. 6 Maryland and rolled off an 11-3 start, a way of playing the Spartans can fall back into, Rensing said.

“We just need to get back on the winning streak, there is no tomorrow,” he said. “We talked about no excuses, and I think everyone is 0-0. You always want to be winning some games, but we’re getting a little bit more healthy, and that’s the most important thing.”

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